Engineers Bring Hope to Developing Nations

Medical professionals, missionaries and other volunteer organizations work to bring emergency relief to natural disaster and poverty victims. But other career fields can provide aid as well. For example, engineers often build emergency shelters and design sustainable technology to provide assistance and hope throughout the developing world.

Humanitarian engineering is defined as “design under constraints to directly improve the well being of underserved populations.” It has roots dating back to the French Revolution, when a group of engineers at the Ecole Polytechnic decided to use their technical skills to work for social justice.

Haiti Relief Efforts Insist Cash Is Best

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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – When natural disasters strike, they bring out the best in most people. Overcome with the good intentions to help, they give supplies that they feel are needed most. But what they don’t realize is that cash is best to help the victims of an international disaster.

Such was the case after the 2005 Asian tsunami. Aid workers found themselves flooded with donations that, while given with the best of intentions, could not help tsunami survivors.

Now, earthquake-devastated Haiti finds itself in a similar situation. Transporting items from America creates added expense, as well as a headache for the professional relief organizations, who have to sort, pack, move and distribute the donations.

According to Center for International Disaster Information (CIDI), cash proves far more helpful. Aid workers on the ground know exactly what victims need, and can direct funds accordingly. Many organizations have been active in Haiti for decades, so their workers have established ties with the Haitian community, know local customs and can determine what supplies will help the most.

Additionally, American dollars go further in Haiti, allowing organizations to get more bang for every donated buck. Cash donations help to stimulate the local economy and thus help to speed the rebuilding process. And those who donate cash can rest assured that their contributions will go directly to the disaster site — in contrast, many donated items have to be thrown away, often for legal reasons.

Relief organizations do not want Americans to stop donating, they simply want to spread the word: To help the most, cash is best.

“Americans can help the most by donating cash to an established relief agency,” says Suzanne H. Brooks, director of CIDI. “Helping the efforts of professional humanitarian relief agencies is the absolute best way to aid the victims in Haiti.”

For more information, visit CIDI’s Web site at www.cidi.org. To find a list of credible humanitarian relief agencies, visit www.interaction.org. The Web site www.charitynavigator.org provides valuable information about making informed decisions when supporting charities.

Preparing for Disaster With a Click of a Mouse

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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – American homes aren’t as secure as we think. Among natural disasters -; floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, mudslides, earthquakes, wildfires -; and kitchen fires and broken pipes, most homeowners will see their properties damaged.

But homeowners can take steps to help protect their possessions from disaster, natural or otherwise.

When moving into a new area, buyers should learn what kind of disasters afflict the region. For example, if hurricanes are a concern, buyers should consider homes with hurricane strapping -; flat metal strips that attach rafters and trusses to walls. According to the American Red Cross, people should not buy homes in high-risk flood zones, in areas threatened by coastal erosion or on fault lines.

Once homeowners know what to expect, they can install fire alarms, secure bookcases and other heavy objects that could fall in an earthquake, and they can clear surrounding brush, which can be a fire hazard. But homeowners also need to secure their financial information.

Homeowners need to inventory their possessions, either on paper or with photographs. Even inexpensive items, like dish towels, need to be recorded, because small costs can add up should everything in the home require replacement.

Homeowners need to record where they keep all of their financial and family documents, from birth certificates to tax returns, then copy each document and store it in a safe place. But a large disaster might destroy nearby banks, too.

Online systems can both simplify preparations and provide greater document security. One online estate planning service, The Estate Vault, consolidates client information, from assets, liabilities and financial portfolios to medical histories and vehicle registration information.

Customers can choose to keep their information on a secure Web site, on their home computers, on a CD or USB device or in any combination of those three locations. If documents become physically damaged, Estate Vault users can simply download their records from the service’s secure Web site. Wills, marriage licenses and credit card records are kept safe and easy to access.

The Estate Vault stores its data in a building owned by Primus Telecommunications Canada, which has won awards for its support systems. Canada does not experience earthquakes or hurricanes, making it one of the world’s safest places for document security.

For more information, visit www.estatevault.com. Estate Vault trades on the NASDAQ OTC under the symbol TEVI.

For the Red Cross, Quick Alerts Prove Key

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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – When disaster strikes, the American Red Cross acts, responding to over 70,000 disasters – fires, hurricanes, chemical spills, explosions, earthquakes, mud slides, tornadoes, transportation accidents – each year.

The Red Cross fulfills people’s needs during such emergencies. The agency provides food, shelter and mental and physical health care for disaster victims. It runs blood drives, feeds volunteers, helps victims pay for basic needs and reunites separated families.

In a disaster, timing becomes vital. The Red Cross must coordinate volunteers and services for disaster relief across America quickly and efficiently.

Like many businesses, schools, banks and government agencies, the Red Cross decided to use the Immediate Response Information Service (IRIS) created by TechRadium, Inc.

When the Red Cross calls or e-mails an alert to IRIS, the system sends messages to the Red Cross’s contacts in 30 seconds. Volunteers, organizers and emergency response teams receive the Red Cross’ messages through their phones, pagers, PDAs, computers and fax machines. IRIS will continue dialing phone numbers until people receive their emergency alert.

IRIS users do not need to buy or install special software. The service translates messages into 10 languages – English, Spanish, Chinese, French, Korean, Portuguese, German, Vietnamese, Japanese, Italian.

IRIS also proves reliable. The system uses many servers across the U.S. If one server should happen to go down, IRIS will still work.

IRIS aids the American Red Cross, but it can be suitable to any organization of any size. IRIS can quickly distribute nonemergency information, ranging from weather alerts to office closings. It can tell managers about a quickly scheduled meeting or a utility company about a major outage.

Natural and man-made disasters can devastate communities and slow responses to emergencies can cost lives. Americans should feel safe knowing that the Red Cross uses the most advanced alert system to coordinate its relief efforts.

To learn more about IRIS and to view a demonstration, visit www.useiris.com.