Disaster Management

Studying Disaster Apps


2 minutes after midnight on the 14th of November 2016, I experienced the largest earthquake in my life. A 7.8M earthquake struck near Kaikoura that caused severe shaking throughout New Zealand

As I evacuated outside my home, I only brought one thing out with me: my smartphone.


Earthquake validated my research topic

On that night, as I was about to send a message to my family I noticed I was trembling, I was shaking. I found it harder to complete the task!

The event affirmed what I have been studying so far up to that point: Our information processing capabilities may be compromised during high-stress situations.

Literature has always emphasised that in building tools and technologies for responders in emergencies, the issue of cognitive load must be taken into account.

However, has this been taken into account when designing for disaster apps?


Motivation for studying disaster app usability

There are hundreds of disaster apps in Google Play or iTunes.

These disaster apps claim to provide information on the onset, during or immediately after a disaster.

How many of these apps are actually usable? Not many.

My research aims to understand the usability of disaster apps.

I want to build a framework when followed, will ensure that the app will be usable during critical situations.


User survey

It is my mission in my PhD project to capture the usability factors for a successful app make it into a comprehensive guideline for disaster apps.

Help me make build this framework by answering a survey at https://tinyurl.com/appsdisaster.

by Marion Tan

Marion Tan is a PhD candidate at the Joint Centre for Disaster Research at Massey University. She is interested in users’ interaction with technologies during disaster situations. Her research looks into evaluating usability of mobile applications for disasters.




Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

Interested in gaining more perspective? Click on  Depressed elephant in the emergency services staff room to read more.

The Scholars' Lounge A Massey Blog