West Palm Beach, FL (PRWEB) February 26, 2013
Forty percent of small businesses without a recovery plan fail after a major disaster strikes. With small businesses accounting for over 50% of local jobs, when small businesses fail, communities suffer. Few studies have looked at the risks to small businesses from natural disasters combined with how to more efficiently and quickly speed recovery to small businesses by relying upon new, geospatial, modeling technologies merged into existing, local government mapping systems. Typical, aggregate estimates of damages to commercial properties provide little insight into ways to lessen the risks to small businesses from hurricanes, floods, and other natural and man-made disasters. Lessons learned from Superstorm Sandy serve as a warning to focus more on these economic engines.
A new study, done at no cost to taxpayers, uses field data collected from local business interviews, surveys, and databases to create disaster cost models for the cities of Palm Beach and West Palm Beach. The goal is to generate economic impact estimates that focus on risks to the area’s businesses. By highlighting the needs of businesses, their interdependencies, and the scale of the risk within the small business sector, this study will give city planners information to help them prioritize mitigation and response activities. The goal is to get businesses functioning as quickly as possible after a disaster so valuable jobs are not lost forever. The current study aims to establish a pilot template for communities nationwide.
The project is being conducted by a team of senior cadets from the U.S. Air Force Academy. The cadets have been interviewing local business representatives and residents since February 21st and will finish this first phase of their research on February 27th. West Palm Beach’s Mayor met at length with the team and supports the project’s goals, with follow up meetings scheduled with businesses via both city’s Chambers of Commerce. Due to the unexpected, long term, north bridge closure, the Air Force cadets also are gathering real world data from Palm Beach businesses and residents as part of their study, with guidance from the Palm Beach Civic Association. This survey data will be useful in evaluating the economic impact of the loss of this major access point to the island.
Field crews are using cutting edge, mobile software through formal, multi-year, research and development partnerships with Virtual Badge, LLC, a West Palm Beach technology firm. The firm has created a simple but robust system that uses smart phones with custom designed software to give business owners and their employees’ field based assessments and analytics. The software also can be used to collect photographs and other critical data that is time-date stamped and geo-located, even when cell phone towers are non-existent. The newly improved technology, based on mobile systems on older model cell phones used extensively by a team of local first responders, is being trademarked as Virtual Badge™.
Virtual Badge™ provides easy and affordable access control, has revenue generating capabilities for local governments, and is designed to create partnerships between businesses and local government. The on-going pilot also involves support from The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, and, because of four approved patents and five pending patents in mobile technologies, Virtual Badge LLC recently partnered with the public university system of the State of Florida. The startup company is hoping to be a catalyst to begin to reverse the “brain drain” from the City’s core and possibly lead to an innovation hub through the State within West Palm Beach’s Downtown Development Authority. The growing initiative now involves guidance and partnerships from more than 15 other organizations and agencies.