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Tech to the rescue: careers in disaster response

Careers in disaster response

Use your tech skills to help predict, prepare for and respond to natural disasters in a changing global climate

From bushfires to floods, tsunamis and earthquakes, Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand see their fair share of natural disasters. And as climate change cranks up the intensity of many of these events, how well we cope often boils down to how well we predict, prepare for and respond to them. That’s where careers in disaster response come in.

Enter the tech heroes – skilled problem solvers using the power of STEM to make our world safer. These are the folks creating apps to keep the public informed during bushfires, inventing wearable tech to keep first responders safe and developing smart AI that can predict disasters and help us get through them.

Interested in joining this important mission? There are loads of possible pathways, but one way you could kick off your journey is with a tech degree that offers majors related to disaster management – or, you could pursue a postgraduate course in this area. Along the way, remember to beef up your resume with relevant internships, certifications or experiences like student-led projects and STEM competitions.


RELATED: Find your STEM + X with this handy quiz!


Careers in disaster response

Considering careers in disaster response, but looking for tech pathways? Explore these tech gigs that help us predict, manage and recover from natural disasters.

Bushfires

First responders: Firefighters from organisations like the NSW Rural Fire Service or Fire and Emergency New Zealand combat the blaze and protect people and property.

Tech responders:

  • Data scientists: Help figure out where fires might happen next by studying everything from weather patterns to plant types and past fires.
  • GIS specialists: Use geographic information systems (GIS) – aka special computer mapping – to guide firefighters in the (literal) heat of the moment.
  • Software engineers: Build apps to keep people informed and safe during bushfires.

Floods

First responders: Emergency workers from the State Emergency Service in Australia or NZ’s Civil Defence help to evacuate people and mitigate flood damage.

Tech responders:

  • Data analysts: Look at weather and water data to predict when floods might happen.
  • Full stack developers: Design computer tools to help prepare for floods.
  • Remote sensing specialists: Use aerial images to monitor flood progression and assess damage.

Cyclones

First responders: Rescue teams from organisations like the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services or NZ’s Rescue Coordination Centre provide immediate aid and support in the affected areas.

Tech responders:

  • Data scientists: Use weather data to predict when and where cyclones might happen.
  • Web developers: Create websites that show where cyclones are moving.
  • User experience designers: Make sure warning apps are easy to use.

Earthquakes

First responders: Teams from the Urban Search and Rescue find and help victims trapped in rubble.

Tech responders:

  • Data analysts: Look at ground-shaking data to help guess when earthquakes might happen.
  • Software engineers: Create computer simulations that pretend to shake buildings in a virtual environment to test if they’re safe.
  • Network engineers: Work on phone and internet systems so they keep operating during earthquakes.

Tsunamis

First responders: Rescue teams from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority or NZ’s National Emergency Management Agency provide immediate aid, evacuate people and initiate cleanup efforts after the event.

Tech responders:

  • Data analysts: Use sea level data and seismic activity to predict potential tsunamis.
  • Software engineers: Develop early warning systems for tsunamis.
  • Network engineers: Ensure communication networks remain operational during and after a tsunami.

Emergency employment

Keen on careers in diaster response? Read our 5 tech careers in disaster relief article. Image: Shutterstock.

Here’s where you might land a job using your tech knowhow to help during times of disaster:

  • Government and public agencies (e.g. the Australian Bureau of Meteorology or Fire and Emergency New Zealand).
  • Non-profit organisations (e.g. the Australian Red Cross or the World Wildlife Fund).
  • Universities and research institutions (e.g. CSIRO).
  • Private companies & startups (e.g. the Google Crisis Response team).

Start your career here…

Technology + disaster response study

Undergraduate:

Diploma in Arts (Emergency Management), Massey University

Bachelor of Emergency Management, Charles Sturt University

Postgraduate:

Graduate Certificate in Emergency and Disaster Management, QUT

Master of Disaster Resilience and Sustainable Development, The University of Newcastle

Technology + disaster response jobs

Data analyst A$56K–A$111K / NZ$50K–NZ$90K

Full stack software developer A$57K–A$124K / NZ$51K–NZ$108K

Network engineer A$55K–A$126K / NZ$50K–NZ$103K

UX designer A$56K–A$113K / NZ$51K–NZ$113K

Salaries from payscale.com

This story first appeared in Careers with STEM: Technology 2023.

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