I'm always fascinated when a medium initially intended as purely for entertainment transforms into so much more. We've seen this happen with digital music players like the iPod; although meant just to play music, they've triggered the development of a new form of information presentation, the podcast. Now there are signs that the medium is taking another leap: the iPod may become a tool for emergency response.
FirstAidPod is an organization that provides emergency instructions as podcasts. The idea is that, while few of us carry around printed medical guides, many of us carry music players; if a medical emergency occurs, users can open up the correct audio file and listen to step-by-step instructions for handling common -- but life-threatening -- problems. Currently-available first aid podcasts include Infant CPR (.m4a) and Child CPR (.m4a), with Adult CPR coming soon. Future podcasts include instructions for handling choking, drowning and bleeding. (If you download these podcasts directly from these links, please also download this Publisher's Note (.m4a) with basic information about use.)
These files are so-called "enhanced" podcasts, containing animation and images for players that support them. I'm of two minds about this -- I can certainly understand the value of animation and images for making something clear in an emergency situation, but using the .m4a file format limits the podcasts to the limited (albeit growing) variety of players that support it. For pure audio, MP3 remains the most widely-supported, while OGG is the most open -- although admittedly not very well-known.
The first aid instructions also come in eBook format, for people with portable devices that can use these kinds of files. I'm told that the material will also be put into formats appropriate for mobile phones.
FirstAidPod is very new, and is still finding its footing. The News page is admirably transparent, and the people behind FirstAidPod openly discuss their evolving advertising model (they promise not to make the ads in any way interfere with accessing the information in an emergency) and marketing plans. For now, the FirstAidPod files are free to download.
Regardless of the success or failure of this particular group -- and I do hope they do well -- this strikes me as a harbinger of a new use for digital players. iPods and similar devices may not have the immediacy of SMS or mobile phones, but they can usually store and play/display much more information. Emergency information that doesn't need to be updated instantly, but tends to change over time, such as evacuation routes, what to do in case of a tornado/earthquake/hurricane/terrorist attack/etc., or even how to perform basic roadside repairs seem obvious candidates for this kind of treatment.
What kinds of emergency information would *you* like to see as a podcast?
Given the medium and the demographic that uses portable players. I have push for recreational drug overdose support, though I realise that that is likely to meet with hostility in some more reactionary quarters.
Wow, what a great idea.
I hope this blossoms into a whole new area of "enhanced" podcasts and videopodcasts - educational short films on all sorts of topics.
Here's some I'd like to watch on my video iPod (with full video accompaniment): "make-your-own" instructional films about herbal medicine, small solar energy systems for the rental-apartment dweller, using various contraceptive devices and safe-s*x tips, simple automotive/bike repairs and upkeep tips, self-diagnosis of (minor) illnesses, DIY water purification, what to do after an earthquake or hurricane, etc.
And, since I'm a grrl, how about some makeup and hair styling tips. :-)
I just did a NERT (Neighborhood Emergency Response Team Training) in San Francisco the last three weekends. Basically, trying to give people the ability to self-organize in the event of disaster (aka a major earthquake).
A lot of things could be distilled down into Pod Casts. How to do a light search and rescue, triage technique, disaster first aid, cribbing, people-carrying techniques, NERT + fire dept organizational structure, using a fire extinguisher.
How about a file containing personal medical information, allergies, and emergency contact info?