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CrisisCamp Day 1

Crisis Mapping in Sudan Source:

Led by Patrick Meier via Skype from Khartoum, the discussion was about a UNDP project, Threat and Risk Mapping Analysis (TRMA). TMRA maps microlevel problems and threat and risk indicators to provide better information when implementing development programs and to avoid causing or exacerbating problems. The data is collected by focus groups and capture the rich local knowledge through capturing information on printed maps. The data is entered into a GIS and so far has collected 6000+ data points and mapped over 700 new villages. Patrick also talked about 4W (who, what, when, where) crisis mapping tool based on open source. 4W shows emerging trends, situational pressures, market routes and critical fault lines through out a region. On the interoperability front, the project has been part of establishing an information sharing group and a data sharing protocol among UN agencies for baseline data. Data sharing has been problematic and has led to duplication of effort, the desire not to share data was describe as "DHD, data hugging disorder." Mesh4X was also discussed a means for data sharing across multiple platforms and high latency networks (read disconnected clients).

The discussion turned to data collection, especially using SMS and occasionally MMS. Andrew Turner mentioned the Youth Assets, where SMS is used by children to perform emotional mapping. It was generally agreed that SMS is the lowest common denominator in terms of a protocol and platform for data collection. However, SMS was not always ideal and that there was some difficulty in getting structured data in Ushahidi. FrontlineSMS was also mentioned as a means for coordinating receipt and delivery of SMS messages when Internet access is not available.

The last part of the discussion tied the technology back with the practice of data collection in the field. IFAD, the International Fund for Agricultural Development published Good Practices in Participatory Mapping, which is a practical guide for data collection in the field.

G.Y.M. - Google, Yahoo & Microsoft - Friends of Crisis Response Source:

MS, Google & Yahoo telling us about the tools they are building to facilitate better disaster prep & response

Specific examples

  • Yahoo helped connect victims with loved ones during Katrina
  • Top public issues once people reach a shelter during crisis 1. Feel safe 2. Connect with love ones
  • Used Bugzilla to help find people in shelters during Hurricane Katrina at the Superdome
  • #SwineFlu Google office down in Mexico and working with them for updating information eg google maps
  • Google are listening to what the world needs within the crisis "response team" and that is why they are here to reach out

Other notes

  • Google looking toward geo-spatial collaboration-making possible to create geo-spatial content & share with world
  • Yahoo interested in collecting data resources to help people easily find shelters
  • Need standards between Yahoo, MS, Google. All have their own site but sharing a common backend
  • Yahoo: technology is easy; what's difficult is getting verified, disclosed, declass'd data (ie, red cross, shelter data)
  • Shelter information is considered private data. Maybe because info would include shelters for battered women. Interesting.
  • From Google "will 911 always be the best emergency service channel" or will new techs that touch lives daily be better?
  • Google, Yahoo and Microsoft have a responsibility because they have unique access to huge & of people
  • Laura of World Bank at #crisiscamp: Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, how do we use your tools and work together to address crisis prevention?
  • Google Response Team focusing more in crisis response. dpt. handling crisis prevention

UX, Usability, Visualization

This session was supposed to be about user experience, usability, and visualization, but it focused more on reliability of crowd sourced data and verification of the data to provide reliable and actionable information. Swift, a framework for verifying crowdsourced information, was discussed.

Part of this discussion was dissemination mechanisms, and delivery crisis information on the most common platforms, which are radio and tv.

Again, SMS was noted as being one of the last communication systems to go down during a communication surge situation that frequently occurs during crisis. The question was asked, "How do you text a 911 call?" if that is the case. The point was made that SMS should not be used as a push mechanism for delivery alerts; rather, SMS should be used for listening to requests and this is a more efficient use of the technology.

There was also a discussion of authoritative or official sources and their role in a crisis. There are 2 national systems to alert during emergency IPAWS and CMAS for delivering alerts.

Crowd Sourcing Situational Awareness

This session was led by David Stephenson. (Unfortunately, I walked in late to this session, missing about half the session).

"How do you get institutional buy-in form the government?" was the question posed during the session. Buy-in maybe defacto because it can not keep up in comparison to crowdsourcing. Stephenson noted that David Robinson of Princeton's Center for Information Technology Policy advocates that the government should publish data and leave the interpretations to the consumers of the data. It was noted that will go from 80 feeds to 100,000 feeds in a month.

With the imminent flood of data, data analysis and visualization tools such as swivel and manyeyes were mentioned.

Evaluation and Reflection on Social Media Activity Around Swine Flu (3:00pm - 4:00pm) Source:

Andrew Wilson of the Department of Health and Human service led a discussion on his work using social media in response to the Swine Flu pandemic. In addition to the official channel,, he employed FaceBook, twiiter and podcasts to provide and collect information about H1N1. One if his strategies was to use tweeters with large numbers of followers to retweet information to create an amplifying effect. One area that they did relatively poorly was mapping and he pointed to the Ushahidi Swine Flu map as a better implementation.

Theme: What roll should government play in new media?

Specific examples

Other notes

  • As each crisis comes and builds over time, government social network presence will grow
  • Swine flu info in video form, Twitter, mapping
  • What can/should government do in an emergency situation?
  • The government should both provide data feeds and information unique to that gov. agency
  • How do you determine credible sources without alienating other sources?
  • If you pick one do you have to add another? At what point do you stop? If you aren't inclusive to all are you going fair access?
  • Give search terms and allow user to do their own research? Is that a compromise?

Using Mobile Technology for Emegency Communications (1:00 pm - 2:00pm) Source:

Theme: Discussion on mobile apps and crisis coms Specific examples

  • Guy at #crisiscamp using mobile app to track mushrooms in NYC? They last only 24 hrs so don't wait too long
  • Getting a tweet about an earthquake before it happens can happen

Other notes

  • SMS is probably the most primary method of emergency communication. Not everyone will have access to a smart phone
  • If you only had SMS to communicate, what would you want to communicate: landmarks, location.
  • Geolocation in crisis maping a possibility withh existing tech and infrastructure, challenge is unlocking access to data
  • creating a global database of cell tower locations
  • For emergency sms texting check out
  • Challenge is getting the preparedness messages out in a way and at a time when people will care and can use it
  • Key challenge is risk communication. Building network of networks, so city/state networks can connect w/Red Cross networks
  • Some think that government should put the data out there, but are they supposed to be an authoritative source of information?
  • Trust is critical when running networks in emergency situations with multiple gov, private sector and NGO partners
  • Being prepared to react to whatever happens is as important as having the preparedness resources in place
  • Would wireless providers consider establishing an emergency sms code as part of pkg to consumers?
  • New solution: all crisis should be channeled through Ashton Kutcher (half-kidding)
  • 911 responder, talks about how sometimes callers provider horribly incorrect data (severity, directions, etc.)
  • Video streaming may be more accurate in disaster responding than individual communication

Crowd-sourcing Situational Awareness (2:00pm - 3:00pm) Source:

Theme: "Flick from A Bugs Life said, 'Ants can do incredible things.'"

Specific examples

  • Because of the miracle of databases, we're able to consolidate data and search through it granularly
  • When a government tries to procure an emergency communication system, it's obsolete by the time it's developed
  • Consumers on the other hand willingly buy and promote systems that work in real-time and grow organically
  • Have you heard from the police, fire dept or other first responders on what to include in a tweet? Probably not.

Other notes - The CUWiN Foundation develops decentralized, community-owned networks that foster democratic cultures and local content

Lazy Web Disaster

At WhereCamp2009, Mikel Maron led a sesssion where participants could yell out ideas or projects that they would like to see but never implement. The Lazy Web Disaster session collected these ideas on twitter - the results.

CrisisCamp Day 2

Recap of Day 1

The second day started with a long recap of the session from the first day.

It was evident in the previous sessions that there was a tension between domestic and international responses to crisis. Despite this tension there are commonalities and possibly low hanging fruit between the two. Lack of a common a common vocabulary was identified as one of the obstacles that prevent organizations from working together. For example, there are 60,000 organizations nationally that provide crisis management and relief services, but they don't share a common vocabulary. As noted in the Crisis Mapping in the Sudan session the UN has developed a wiki to build a common terminology.

Noel Dickover asked, "What is the coalescing function? Was it crisis response? Why are you here?"

Greg Elin responded that crisis cuts across multiple communities, opens doors and gets people at the table. Crisis activates the bureaucracy, creates opportunities, and opens doors. Bureaucracy may not move or change, but there is still a desire to tap into opportunities, some of which are generated by social media.

The discussion turned to preparedness. Succesful crisis management is based on agility, reacting to the unexpected. So, what are the tools available to handle the situation? Furthermore, is there way to incentivize being prepared. is an official channel for disaster preparedness information, but why don't people know about it and if they did would they care?

It was note that is hamstrung because its in the government space, and that being a government organization hampers its effectives for disseminating the message. Preparedness will require a cultural change, and that current fear based communications do not work.

The discussion turned to what could the participants do as a result of the CrisisCamp; how can these dialogue and ideas become actionable. Concrete steps to continue the work of CrisisCamp were:

  • develop a common language
  • concentrate on what first by identifying the gaps and not jump to how, i.e. technology
  • engage more people to provide the force multiplier, grow the 80 participants to a network of 8000 people
  • provide tools that are simple to use. Google tools don't require training, so that is the bar to shoot for
  • create interoperable applications as demonstation
  • create a demo scenario and build apps around the scenario
  • creation of a wiki:
  • creation of - common community platform
  • create a common design document/template for crisis apps
  • crisiscamp messaging matrix

The remaining sessions were devoted to discussion on implementation of these ideas.

Messaging PR (1-2 pm)

Messaging Matrix:

Hackistan (2 - 3 pm)

Join the convo:

From Silona:

Crisiscamp was big fun but now my brain is full of interesting projects.

Some possible ones are:

Games for Crisis Education

Crisispreparedness Badges for Facebook 1) It would inspire people to become educated in regards to crisis preparedness. Perhaps even having them fulfill specific tasks. 2) it would educate people’s friends and hopefully inspire them to train or do preparedness tasks 3) it would provide a list of trained people and their contact info to the crisis organizers

Creating an Emergency Tech Corp of responders w Google, Microsoft and Yahoo and Burners without Borders. The head of the LA fire Dept invited them down in the Fall for first hand training and use cases.

Codeathon doing FOSS software for crisis handling and preparedness

and the craziest one…

Traveling Instant WIFI like an RV w a gennie that has a satellite hookup that could provide instant wifi to all wifi enabled phones and computers.

a dictionary of crisis terminology seeded with folkonomies from google or amazon since common vocab seemed a severe issue (to me at least)

Yep it was a fun weekend!