Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda After action report.

Arapal Camp

Our deployment in the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda drew to a close on April 14th this year. With an estimated 163 days this was Disaster Tech Lab’s longest deployment to date.

We’ve now completed our After Action Report. Following are some of the statistics:

  • Number of people provided with internet access in Bantayan and Camp Arapal: estimated 2100 people (mix of local population and emergency responders).
  • Number of people who received EMT level medical training: 155 volunteers between Santa Fe, offshore islands and Camp Arapal.
  • Value of networking & communications equipment donated to Camp Arapal and Santa Fe communities:  €35,000.
  • Value of medical supplies donated to Camp Arapal and Santa Fe communities:  €15,000
  • Number of patients treated during clinics in rural hamlets in the Camp Arapal and Bantayan Island regions: in excess of 1500 patients.
  • Number of volunteers deployed: 17
  • Value of financial donations received: €8998.76
  • In-kind donations received from: Airlink, Aruba Networks (US & Australia), Goal Zero, Cascade Designs, ProSys, Pelican Cases, Ubiquiti  & Direct Relief.
  • Cost of deployment: €9470.30

The full after action report can be downloaded here.

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Aidpreneur interview with Evert Bopp

The Aidpreneur website did an extensive interview with our founder Evert Bopp recently. The interview gives a great insight into not only what Disaster Tech Lab does, but also what is involved in running and growing an organisation such as ours.

It’s about 50 minutes long but well worth listening to.

“Aidpreneur | Terms Of Reference interview with Evert Bopp” from Terms Of Reference Podcast: International Development | Humanitarian Aid | Management | Performance | Lifestyle by Aidpreneur | Terms Of Reference | Stephen Ladek. Released: 2014. Track . Genre: Podcast.

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Wireless site surveys in disaster zones.

It was in December 2012 at the start of our deployment following hurricane Sandy that we carried out our first wireless signal survey. Our Sandy response effort in the Rockaway area of New York City was our first one in a 1st world environment and hence brought along some new and challenging aspects. One of these was the pre-disaster communications networks were much more ubiquitous than in previous theatres where we had deployed. Another was the much stronger response efforts with large telcos such as Verizon, AT&T, T-mobile and others despatching repair crews, COW‘s & COLT’s to affected areas as soon as the storm had passed. ISP’s also started repair work within days of the hurricane making landfall. A good video discussing the damage to telco networks and their response can be seen here. However the main challenge for the responding organisations is knowing where the communications service were down and more importantly where they were still working or had been restored.

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In the first few days following hurricane Sandy, even before we deployed a team, Disaster Tech Lab had been busy mapping available public wifi services in New York City. Using an Open Source web mapping application called Crowdmap we first of all imported a dataset on all wifi hotspots in NYC. The dataset came courtesy of NYC Open Data. Unfortunately verifying all these locations to see which ones were still live was a huge task. Next we contacted Boingo one of the worlds largest wifi hotspots agreggators. We asked them if they could check which wifi hotspots on on their service, based in the NYC area were active. Boingo was very helpful and sent us reports every 6 hours of all hotspots which were passing data. Each of these locations was manually entered into the Crowdmap.  This resulted to the map below:

sandy signal crowdmap

However once we deployed a team on the ground it became obvious that apart from the information on what services were being available or restored was only available within the telcos. During coordination meetings with other emergency response agencies, from FEMA and the City of New York down to the grass roots efforts, it became clear that the telcos were not sharing this data. Not even amongst each other. Not only did this make work harder for all relief agencies, but it actually hampered the relief effort as some telcos were flooding the affected areas with COW’s resulting in cross network interference. I am not going into the reasons why this data was not being shared but at it was surprising that even FEMA did not have access to this sort of data.  Real-time data on what services are available and where not only tells responders where they can go to communicate with the outside world, it also gives an indication of the extent of the damage and how quick the services are being restored. Extrapolating this data can for instance tell you where areas without any communication means are and that less or not mobile people there might not be able to contact someone for help. Responders would need to send teams into these areas to go door-to-door to check for people in need.

While there was a lot of high level discussion on what to do and what tools to use nobody was actually taking the initiative. The DTL team decided to just take the initiative. Using an Android tablet running Gmon (kept powered by a Goal Zero solar panel) we walked the lenght of the Rockaways surveying for WiFi networks. All measurements were geo-tagged and exported as a KML file. In addition we drove around with two iOS devices with 4G & LTE connectivity mapping the areas with coverage. The KML file was uploaded to Google Maps for and the areas with 4G & LTE coverage were added manually. It was a rough and ready approach but within the space of a single day we had a very good overview what wireless communication services were available and where.

One of the tools we looked at was the OpenSignal app. This app measures nor only the presence of mobile (2G/3G/4G) networks but uploads that data to their servers and created beautiful heatmaps. The main disadvantage is that the data isn’t processed in realtime. As we saw no point in re-inventing the wheel we approached the people behind this app and had discussions about how we would like to see an adapted version of this app that could be used in disaster zones. FEMA also had similar discussions with them and they agreed to start development of the app. Some field testing was done during summer 2013 by the FEMA Innovation team.

When typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda hit the Philippines in November last year a rudimentary version of the CrisisSignal app was ready but no web GUI had been developed yet so while data could be gathered there was no means to visualize the results. However the apps was pushed heavily by people within UN, the ETC and other tech response organisations. They advised all their personal to run the app and allow it to upload data automatically. We at Disaster Tech Lab also decided to advise our tech teams to install and run the app. In addition we contacted OpenSignal and gained access to the raw data so that we could use it internally. At the same time member organisations of the did excellent work  Digital Humanitarian Network in partnership with Open Signal to mapping the data collected by *all* organisations using the app. They used the ArcGIS platform to map all the data.

I had great expectations of the result of so many people using this app and was looking forward to a wealth of data being mapped. However when I checked the map below this is what showed:

CrisisSignal PH

Click on the above image for the full map

While it displays a good amount of datapoints almost 90% of the collected data has been gathered by our teams on the island of Cebu. Compare that with the very limited amount of data gathered around Tacloban which saw a very large deployment of humanitarian aid organisations in a relatively dense area. Logic would dictate that there would be many more datapoints in that area than on the island of Cebu. After all Disaster Tech Lab only deployed 18 people over a 4 month period compared to the might of the global humanitarian “industry” which deployed en-masse to the Tacloban area. We have gone from rudimentary tools with good outputs to sophisticated tools with minimal output. If the field of humanitarian aid is serious about using technology as an essential part of their response effort (and they should be serious) they need to start using the various tools in the field. Organising hackathons and field experiments is all good and well but if we don’t push for a widespread live testing and application of these tools then we won’t advance our efforts or improve our efficiency.

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Time to get involved!

getinvolved

You can help Our Fundraising Effort!

There are lots of ways you can help us raise the much-needed funds!

  • You can share the link to our GoFundMe page with friends and family: http://www.gofundme.com/9c52vg
  • You can print out our A4 size poster and put them up in places here people can see them. You can download the poster here.
  • Or you can embed our fundraising widget in your blog or website by using the code linked here. You just need to copy and past it into your blog.

Whatever option you choose it will make a difference!

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Moore Oklahoma, one year on.

It is year ago today that a devastating EF5 tornado tore through parts of Oklahoma and devastating the town of Moore. However what escaped most peoples attention is that the damage wasn’t limited to Moore alone. Even before it hit Moore and after it passed through the town the tornado caused severe damage. Very little news about these other affected communities went any further than the local news. During our deployment to the area we installed equipment in communities ranging from Minco (40 minutes drive West of Moore) to Steelman Estates in Little Axe (40 minute drive East of Moore). Especially Steelman was very badly affected. Here 60 families living in trailers saw their homes destroyed and some of their neighbours killed. Very little aid from any of the large private or government response agencies reached this area in the days and weeks afterwards. Steelman became a perfect example of community lead response. All the relief & rebuilding work there involved local people and business and the tent camp that was set up to coordinate the work was run by a biker organisation called “US Defenders”.

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Not only did they community effort provide temporary housing, food, water, medical services and whatnot else, the camp served as a communal focal point where people could come for information or just to talk to someone. That’s one of the reasons why we installed wifi internet access as well as a bunch of laptops for people to use. It was great to log on from our head office in Ireland in the months afterwards and be able to see how much those laptops were used!

Now a year later the camp has gone and a lot of work has been done. However a lot more is left to do and while most people have new housing and secure storm shelters have been built there is a still a lot of clean-up and restauration work to left to do. The fact that the eye of the world media has moved on hasn’t changed that. Read this report from yesterday and watch the video below to see for yourself.

 

 

 

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Connecting the Beaver Crossing NE relief effort.

beaver crossingDisaster Tech Lab has been requested to assist the relief effort in Beaver Crossing Nebraska.

We will be providing Internet access and related services to the Team Rubicon volunteers working there and if possible will also set up a location with public internet access for the local community to use.

An initial assessment will be carried out tomorrow and based so that we can pre-plan the installation and be ready for arrival of the equipment.

At this point we still have openings for a few volunteers with the following skills:

  • (WiFi) networking
  • UHF radio engineer
  • Driver

If you’re available please leave a comment below or email us.

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April 2014 Baxter Springs KS deployment AAR.

Following the conclusion of our deployment to Baxter Springs Kansas we’ve now completed our AAR (After Action Report).

The report can be downloaded here.

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Baxter Springs, Kansas KOAM news footage.

Our team deployed in Baxter Springs KS following the recent tornado there was yesterday featured on KOAM news.
As mentioned in the feature, now that we’re restored most of the municipal fiber network and installed a number of public wifi services, we are packing up and moving on East to other areas where our help is needed.

FOX 14 TV Joplin and Pittsburg News Weather Sports |

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March 2014 Arapal Camp: communication, medical care & resilience.

On March 3rd a two-man team flew from Ireland via Manila to Cebu in the Philippines for a short 1 week deployment in Arapal Camp. Their mission was to assess the ongoing communications project and plan the implementation of further stages of this plan as well as carrying out a medical assessment in order to plan the forthcoming medical training program.

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Arapal Camp is located in a rural area South-West of Bogo city on the Northern end of the island of Cebu. The camp serves as a center for the wider community coordinating rebuilding efforts for damaged houses, providing food and other assistance but more importantly running lively-hood training programs teaching people currently living in poverty how to become self-supporting through organic farming programs, lively-hood training and more. Disaster Tech Lab is contributing to this by making the camp more resilient in the areas of communications and medical services.

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We already have delivered one of the largest satellite dishes that we have ever worked with (2.4 meters in diameter) to the camp and installed it. It’s a C-band dish & satellite router supplied by Businesscom. In addition to this we’ve installed an Aruba Networks 3200 mobility controller and 2 Aruba AP-135′s in the main building of the camp. The next step is to install an outdoor AP (possibly an Aruba AP175) on this building and Aruba Networks RAP-155′s in buildings on the two hilltops surrounding the camp. The latter will be backhauled through Globe’s 3G service. Test carried out showed that this 3G network could provide download speeds in excess of 5Mbps and upload speeds of 1Mbps+. Not blazingly fast but more than sufficient for what is needed. Due to the availability, low-cost and faster speed the 3G network will be used for day-to-day access while the satellite backhaul will be reserved for mission critical and resilient communications.

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The second part of our resilience program is targeted at training a local cadre of volunteers in First Aid and emergency medicine skills. Working with experience EMT instructors we will provide the required training, medicines and supplies to provide Camp Arapal with a first line medical capacity able to provide primary & pre-hospital care to local residents. The current situation is that if someone has an injury that is not life threatening they will forego medical care until the injury either heals or until a complication occurs that requires hospitalization. First line medical care is generally not available or too expensive. Through our resilience program we hope to bring change to that. In addition to the training our medical team runs daily clinics providing primary medical care for people in the wider area.

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If you like what you’ve just read and think you have the skills that we need? Why not volunteer?

No time to volunteer but still wan’t to support our work? Why not make a donation?

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SURVEY: Irish response to Storm Darwin.

storm darwin

Last month Ireland was hit by extremely bad weather causing widespread flooding and damage.

In an attempt to get an impression of the amount of damage/flooding and most of all how people became aware of the damage we have put together a survey. The data collected in this survey will be used to improve future response and information efforts during and after future Irish extreme weather events.

Click here to take survey

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