Over time, we faced similar support system challenges when responding to disasters in Venezuela, Peru, India, and more than 70 crisis events in 40 countries. In each crisis there was a need to track goods, manage personnel, reunite families, register volunteers, manage resources, and produce reports with a proven disaster management system. Unfortunately, there was no globally accepted standard or package being used by governments, the UN, NGOs, or local responders. Systems were re-invented and customized to meet the needs of the disaster victims and impacted governments with every new event.
The IBM CRT dreamed of a simple, well-designed solution that would allow us to use a single standardized international disaster management system that was acceptable to all major responding agencies, volunteers, and governments. Such a system could be utilized as an international disaster preparedness collaboration tool. It could be used by governments in advance of a catastrophic disaster to help with smaller localized events while preparing for worst-case scenarios. It would provide a common ground for the sharing of ideas and information needed to build resiliency on a global basis. It was a great dream.
On Dec. 26, 2004, the Indian Ocean tsunami struck, causing a massive loss of life, infrastructure, and property, as well as untold suffering. Among the hardest hit areas were Indonesia, Sri-Lanka, India, and Thailand. We dispatched teams to all these locations and began working with senior government and UN officials, NGOs and local community leaders. More than 670 dedicated individuals were directly involved, supported, or were deployed in the CRT humanitarian relief efforts. Again, the requirement for critical incident management systems quickly emerged. Once again we began writing and customizing systems with one major difference. Multiple systems were being built under the concept that a consolidated global solution could be developed. In Indonesia we worked closely with OCHA (UN) and the Joint Logistics Center to match their global standards and recommendations for such a system. Our crisis response and programming team in India was highly advanced. They rapidly built disaster management systems based on previous experience in the Gujarat, India, earthquake. Displaced person registration, logistics management, relocation, and camp management, as well as GIS integration solutions were deployed within days.
The major breakthrough took place in Sri-Lanka where the CRT began working with Dr. Sanjiva Weerawaran from the advanced IBM Watson Research Labs in New York. We posed our challenge of repetitive creation and shared our dream with Dr. Sanjiva. He responded with two words: "open source." The systems had to be available at no cost to users in order to get global acceptance. The system could not be built on proprietary or licensed software platforms, and could not be owned by, or directly tied to, any private sector company, individual, country, UN agency, or NGO. The solution had to belong to everyone. The SAHANA Disaster Management System was born.
The first module to be written and implemented was missing person registration. This was clearly a high priority with the thousands of family members missing or being relocated. Dr. Sanjiva began working with Mark Prutsalis, the CRT, and members of the local open source community, including the leader of the SAHANA team, Mr. Chamindra de Silva. Multiple dedicated individuals and companies were represented on the team.
In 2007, SAHANA is one of the world’s most recognized, accepted, deployed, and successful critical incident management systems. SAHANA received the highest award in the "open source" industry from the Free Software Foundation in 2006. SAHANA was given the Award for Social Benefit among other contenders such as OLPC, Project Gutenburg, and Wikipedia.
Brent Woodworth is the chairman of DRI International, the worldwide segment manager for IBM CRT, and a member of the SAHANA Board of Directors.
A full demonstration of the SAHANA Disaster Management System including background information and download capability can be found on the Web at:
The currently available SAHANA applications are as follows:
1. Missing Person Registry – helping to reduce trauma by effectively finding missing persons and reunite families
2. Organizational Registry – coordinating and balancing the distribution of relief organizations in the affected areas and connecting relief groups allowing them to operate in a coordinated manner
3. Request Management System – registering and tracking all incoming requests for support and relief up to fulfillment and helping donors connect to relief requirements
4. Camp Registry – tracking the location and numbers of victims in the various camps/relief centers or temporary shelters in the affected area
5. Volunteer Management – coordinate the contact information, skills, assignments, and availability of volunteers and responders
6. Inventory Management – tracking the location, quantities, expiration of supplies stored for utilization in a disaster
7. Situation Awareness – providing a GIS (Google maps) overview of the situation including shelter locations and responder deployment sites.
The following modules are under development and will be released as soon as testing and quality control reviews are completed.
1. Mass Evacuation Tracking – designed to help cities and governments in managing major evacuation efforts and tracking of displaced individuals
2. Logistics and Supply Chain Management – designed to facilitate the receipt, tracking, and shipment of critical supplies into and out of warehouse facilities and distribution points in the impacted region. Scalable to meet local or government legal requirements. Meets UN operational standards. (including medicine)
3. Alert Management – utilization of CAPS and SMS for alert management
4. Camp Management – tracking of all camp / shelter management activities including personnel, food, medical, inventory, and support needs
5. Child Protection Services – utilization of information and training materials to protect children from abuse and to track specific needs.
6. Data Import – linkage to legacy systems, easy reporting, compatibility.
7. Mobile/PDA support – can be used for local collection of data including damage assessments, needs analysis, registration, tracking, etc.
The SAHANA Board of Directors has aspirations of the system:
1. Help alleviate human suffering and help save lives through the efficient use of IT software and systems during a disaster.
2. Bring together a diverse set of actors from government, emergency management, NGOs, INGOs, spontaneous volunteers, and victims themselves in responding effectively to a disaster.
3. Empower the victims, responders, and volunteers by enabling them to help themselves and others in an efficient and effective manner.
4. Protect victim data and reduce the opportunity for data abuse
5. Provide a free and open source solution end-to-end available to everyone.
"Appeared in DRJ's Summer 2007 Issue"