I started writing this the day the news came of the earthquake. But it seemed unlikely to get published in Nepal. So I added some language on applicability to other countries.
Earthquakes happen. Even if most buildings survived, some would collapse. Even if people took the right actions, they would still get buried under the rubble. This is true for landslides as well as earthquakes.
Mobile phones are today ubiquitous. Given the instances of people being located under rubble because their phones kept communicating with the nearby towers, phone-signal detection appears to be a tool we need to add to the toolboxes of the first-response teams.
How quickly can the authorities locate the earth-moving equipment? How quickly can those with the necessary knowledge and experience be brought to the scene? This is where Sahana, the disaster response software suite developed in Sri Lanka after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, could play a role. If it was integrated into every regional government’s disaster response plan, the information about the resources needed for an effective first response would already be in the databases.