Follow-up deployment to Cebu, Philippines.

2014-03-09 12.26.29

During our initial deployment to the Philippines, following typhoon Haiyan in November 2013, we worked in several areas across the Northern half of the island of Cebu. Our teams built communications infra-structure, provided communication services, ran medical clinics and trained several teams of local volunteers in first aid and medical skills. Out of all the lessons learned during this 4 month deployment one thing stood out from the rest: the need for the local population to become more prepared and resilient. The Philippines is a country that is battered by typhoons, earthquakes and volcanoes on a regular basis. As this is something that cannot be changed the best way to decrease the number of casualties following disasters is by enabling the population to be more prepared and to respond quicker and more efficiently.

One of the communities that we worked in stood out from the others, this was Arapal Camp. Arapal is located in a remote rural area south-west of the city of Bogo. The region is very poor and has almost no infra-structure or services. However Arapal Camp, under the guidance of US born Philippinos, has started a number of programs to empower the local community and allow them to become more resilient. They are running sustainable farming programs and livelihood training (carpentry, artisan crafts etc). They have also build a school for local children and are serving as a hub for the wider community for the ongoing rebuilding effort providing materials, labor and construction advice. The camp also has a central kitchen, a sawmill, pig & goat farm and serves as a religious center for the area with Sunday mass attracting up to 1000 people.

In short Arapal Camp is a community that wants to and *is* improving their own situation. They do not want to be dependent on aid and roll from one disaster to another.

To assist this great community, Disaster Tech Lab has decided to provide technical/communications & medical expertise and equipment. Earlier this year we installed a satellite dish as well as a number of WiFi access points providing internet access to the main building. We also ran a number of medical clinics and more importantly provided First Aid and CPR training to a team of local medical volunteers that we set up.  Having a reliable source of communications greatly enhances the communities resiliency and preparedness while the medical training and supplies provided by Disaster Tech Lab have already proven their worth in a community which was hours away from any form of medical aid.

Disaster Tech Lab has now decided to return to Arapal to continue the project we started and to make the community sully self-supporting in communications and medical needs.  During our 10 day mission in late October to early December we plan to complete the following tasks:

  • Install a 3G internet backhaul into the location.
  • Extend internet access via WiFi to the whole camp/village.
  • Install a number of VoIP phones allowing incoming and outgoing phone communication.
  • Train local volunteers in maintaining the computer network equipment.
  • Provide refresher training for the local medical response team.
  • Run medical clinics in surrounding communities providing first aid and pre-hospital care.
  • Carry out a medical assessment for the region and share with national authorities.
  • Establish a permanent local medical clinic.
  • Provide medical supplies and equipment for above clinic.

The overall effect of this mission will be that the wider community will have access to communication services which will be more resilient than the unreliable services currently offered by the telecoms companies. Not only will this allow them to communicate better following a disaster but the internet access will greatly improve the quality of their livelihood training programs as well as the children’s education in the school.

As part of our increased capacity we have set up a separate organization to handle all future medical deployments. Keeping with our ethos this organization is called “Disaster Medics”.  The team for Disaster Medics will deploy together with the Disaster Tech Lab team on this upcoming mission.

The medical training as well as the equipment and supplies are invaluable as a in these type of rural communities a large number of people still end up either dying or incurring livelong disabilities due to the non-existent medical care. For Arapal the nearest doctor is 2.5 hours away and most people can’t even afford to go. The training and medical supplies we delivered earlier this year has already been put to good use on several occasion given urgently needed aid to people with injuries or illnesses.

Donations are very much appreciated and can be made securely online via the following link: http://www.gofundme.com/ep1qak

Thank you!

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To logo or not to logo….

We’ve been having some internal discussion about our logo for some time.  The current logo is one that is mostly a homebrew one with some tweaks added over time.

Master

Some of the comments we’ve had is that it doesn’t have a clear reference to what we as an organisation do and that is doesn’t scale well.

As opinions within the organisation are divided on the issue whether or not we need a new logo we are welcoming your opinion.

Do you like our current logo? Is it representative?

If you don’t like it what would you think we should change?

We already have been playing with some new designs and below are some of the current draft designs. We would appreciate feedback on these as well.

Feedback can be left as comments below.

DTL logo proposals

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Technology & humanitarian aid: follow up mission to Philippines.

we want you

Following our successful 4-month deployment to the Philippines which finished last April we have now started planning a follow up mission and are looking for volunteers!

The team for the upcoming mission will deploy to Arapal Camp on the island of Cebu. Arapal Camp is in many ways a unique community. It’s in  a rural & very poor area with very little infra-structure and services. However a number of projects have been going on in Arapal that have made it to a hub for long term improvement for the wider area. Shepherd’s Hill together with a number of other organisations has been running programs in sustainable farming using organic methods, other livelyhood programs have also been taking place as well as schooling for children. In addition to this Arapal has served as a local hub for the rebuilding effort following typhoon Yolanda last year. They have provided expertise, materials and manpower to help people rebuild their homes.

During our first deployment we installed a number of WiFi access points in the main building in Arapal Camp as well as installed a fixed C band satellite dish on the hillside. Our goals for the upcoming deployment is to address and resolve ongoing issues with the satellite service, install a 3G service as a secondary form of backhaul connectivity and to extend to wifi footprint to most of the camp.

Arapal Camp

We are now looking for 4 volunteers to join us on this deployment.

If you’re an experience WiFi engineer and you want to use your skills to help people in need this is your chance! Bringing internet access through wifi to Arapal Camp is having a direct positive impact. It is giving local people access to communication (especially essential during emergencies), it greatly enhances the education of the children but it also allows Arapal to bring it’s unique story to the world and hopefully inspire other communities to become more resilient and self-sufficient.

In return for providing your skills and expertise you will get to spend time in a absolutely beautiful tropical setting living amongst the extremely friendly local population and you will bring back unforgettable memories.

What do we expect of you?

First of all you need to know the art of wifi networking inside out. In addition to that you need to be resilient, able to improvise and work under less than perfect conditions and have a “can-do” attitude. We need result focusses people and do-ers.

Disaster Tech Lab will provide accommodation and food during your stay in Camp Arapal but you will live as the local people live and eat what local people eat. No fancy hotels and margaritas on the beach. However during your down-time (and you will get some) you are free to do whatever you want of course!

We will be finalising the exact dates soon but it will be a 10 day deployment somewhere between late November and the middle of December.

Interested?

Just complete our online volunteer form here and we will contact you to discuss further details.

We are open to volunteers from anywhere, your current location is less important than your skills, experience and attitude.

During our deployment earlier this year we also deployed a team of medical volunteers who ran clinics and trained a team of local volunteers in first aid and CPR. We have since set up a separate organisation for medical mission and this organisation, Disaster Medics, is also planning a follow up mission. Medical professional interested in humanitarian aid work should check out their website.

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Upgrading to the iPhone 6? Why not do something useful with your “old” iPhone?

iphone 6

The internet is a-buzz with the #applelive event where we’re seeing the launch of the new iPhone 6 (as well as a whole slew of new i-devices).

Die-hard Apple-ites are already chomping at the bit to upgrade their iPhones as some as the 6 is released. This will lead to a whole herd of iPhone 4’s & 5’s possibly gathering dust at the bottom of a desk drawer.

We are offering the opportunity to do something useful with your obsolete iPhone!

You can donate your iphone to Disaster Tech Lab so that we can use it to connect people in disaster zones. Adding these devices to our arsenal will enable us to not only provide people who have been disconnected by a natural disaster with a communications channel but we can use the devices in the internet cafes which we build. Combined with VoIP/SIP clients we can use them to allow people to make calls to friends and family so that they can let them know they’re safe and where they are.

So here’s your opportunity!

If you’re an individual or company willing to donate your surplus iPhones so that they can be used to help people in need please send us a quick email and we’ll follow up with instruction.

Thank you!

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Disaster Tech Lab partners with US based aviation company.

 

Following is a press release that we send out last week:

Recognising the potential of airborne platforms during disaster response Sentinel Air LLC and Disaster Tech Lab have entered into a partnership. UAV’s and other airborne platforms are currently all the rage in the disaster response world. While the most common use is for video recording and monitoring DTL (Disaster Tech Lab) saw the potential for an airborne wireless sensor platform. A device that mounted on a small plane, could be flown over a disaster zone to detect and geolocate signals emitted by mobile phones (WiFi and or cellular signals). These locations could indicate people trapped in rubble or in flooded houses. By providing this data in real-time to first responders such as fire brigades or ambulance services the time needed to locate victims will be drastically reduced. Another application would be to map which wireless communications networks are still up and running after a disaster. This is something which DTL has been doing since their response to superstorm Sandy in November 2012.

“It is important to find the right partner with the right capacity to work with” says Evert Bopp founder of DTL “we purposely avoided using the very popular quadcopters as used by lot of organisations. The legislation for these quadcopters hasn’t matured yet in during a lot of recent disasters responses their use has been banned. We also wanted a partner with actual aviation experience so that they could comfortably handle all FAA formalities. Sentinel Air was the perfect fit as they have both manned & unmanned aerial platforms and the company is run by a group of former military aviators.

While the two organisations plan to work together developing and testing airborne wireless sensor platforms they will also deploy together to disaster hit areas in the US. “Aerial video footage is of a huge benefit in our work, sometime areas aren’t accessible by vehicle, or the condition of roads into remote areas affected by disasters isn’t known. Having an eagle eye view in real-time will not only help us but as we plan to share the gathered data with other responding organisations it will help the overall response effort” says Bopp.

“Our team agreed to partner with Disaster Tech Labs as we see it as an opportunity to continue to give back to the community we have served for so long.  We can assist in times of disaster, using the skills given to us by the Military.  By teaming with DTL we can not only offer our HD Aerial Video and Radio Relay abilities but now by taking DTLs equipment airborne we can increase its range and then distribute that knowledge directly to first responders. The increased situational awareness offered by combination will increase efficiency and safety for first responders and in times of disaster will save lives.” Says Dean Attridge Sentinel Air’s co-owner.

About Disaster Tech Lab: DTL provides rapid response internet access and communication services in disaster zones. It was founded following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti by husband and wife team Evert & Kate Bopp. Since then the organization has worked in Haiti, multiple locations in the US as well as the Philippines. In addition to disaster response work DTL also develops new technologies for use in disaster response work. The organization is one of the leading ones in its field. In 2013 the founders received a certificate of recognition issued by FEMA during a ceremony in the White House. Founded in Ireland the organization is also registered in the USA as a non-profit.

About Sentinel Air:  Formed in 2013 by retiring military aviators, Sentinel Air LLC is a commercial aerial support company; they offer services to Law Enforcement, Public Safety and Environmental Inspection. Experienced in both manned and unmanned aviation we elected to build a hybrid of those technologies.

 

For more information contact Mr. Evert Bopp via email: evert@disastertechlab.org Mr. Dean Attridge via email: deanattridge@sentinel-air.com or view the following websites:

www.disastertechlab.org

www.sentinel-air.com

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Warren Michigan flood relief.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AtRqHP-FDlM Disaster Tech Lab has deployed a team to Warren Michigan after receiving a request to provide internet access to an All Hands Volunteers team working there as part of the flood relief effort. The All Hands team was located beside the Woods Church in Warren. The church had an internet connection as well as a wifi access point installed inside the church however the range didn’t extend outside the church itself. This lack of internet access was hampering All Hands’ efficiency. The below pictures shows the situation with the church on the right and the house used by All Hands to the left of the church. There was also an RV/Trailer parked to the left of the house which was also being used and needed access. Woods Church sat image A team of local volunteers has been activated and equipment has been shipped from one of our depots. The current planning is to provide (encrypted) WiFi access to All Hands as well as setting up a public/open wifi service.

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Napa earthquake

napa

Napa (north of San Francisco) was hit by a 6.0 earthquake a few hours ago. There has been lots of structural damage with widespread power and communications outages.

No casualties have been reported as of this moment.

Disaster Tech Lab is monitoring the situation to see if a deployment is necessary.

If you’re in the area please be aware of possible aftershocks that might cause more falling debris.

Switch of all utilities until supplies have been restored and checked.

For more information please check these resources:

Californian Highway Patrol

Napa Police Department

County of Napa

Napa Red Cross

More updates soon.

 

UPDATE AUGUST 28th: Considering that we haven’t been requested to assist in the relief effort as well as an adequate and rapid restoration of communication service we have decided that a deployment to Napa at this point is not necessary.

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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.

politico.com-130131_hurricane_sandy_verizon_ap_605

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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