RFID wristbands to help Texas track evacuees

In the aftermath of a natural disaster, locating loved ones can be a nightmare for families in part because public safety officials have such difficulty keeping track of evacuees.

The state of Texas and AT&T are attempting to lessen that anxiety and smooth the recovery process with today's announcement that the latter will oversee the Texas Special Needs Evacuation Tracking System (SNETS), described as the nation's first to provide such emergency services statewide.

From the press release:

In the event of an emergency evacuation, evacuees will be registered on-site and issued a bar-coded RFID wristband. An evacuee's wristband will be scanned by the GDEM with a wireless device as the evacuee boards a state-contracted vehicle, and the information will be added to the bus boarding log. Evacuee intake information and location will then be sent wirelessly to The University of Texas Center for Space Research data center. The vehicles will be equipped with GPS systems to track the location along the evacuation route. Upon reaching the destination, the system will update evacuee profiles and provide real-time information. This will enable state employees to respond to inquiries from the public about the safety of evacuated family members and to reunite families that have been separated during a large-scale disaster.

Rugged hand-held computers from Motorola will be used for the enrollment and tracking of evacuees throughout the process. In addition, Motorola bar-code scanners and RFID readers will be used in the registration and final destination check-in process for evacuees.

Among the other technology vendors working with AT&T are: Radiant RFID, which will provide wristbands and portals; WebTech Wireless will equip state vehicles with GPS systems; and Retriever Software, whose software allows for real-time information sharing.

AT&T is also offering RFID-enabled services for the healthcare industry.

Plans to use the technology to track people have also proven to be controversial, as with border control, for example. Other applications have resisted RFID for more practical reasons, witness the airline industry's cool reception.

Will be interesting to see how many evacuees refuse their wristbands on conscientious-objector grounds and what will happen to them if they do.

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