Volunteer Technology Groups are Improving Crisis Response
A January 16, 2010 Washington Post article featured a little known but important movement that promises to greatly enhance the capabilities of the crisis response community, both international and domestic. It highlights the work of several organizations that are devoted to applying geospatial technologies to develop tools to improve situational awareness and provide better analysis to prepare for and response to crises. Among the groups, which tends to overlap in members are the International Network of Crisis Mappers, Crisis Commons, and Random Hacks of Kindness with the latter two growing out of the first ever Crisis bar camp held in Washington, D.C. last summer. Related to these is the Star-Tides program, which conducts technology experiments four times a year at Camp Roberts in northern California.
All of these organizations bring together technologists from the private sector as well as government laboratories with practitioners, government representatives, not for profits and individuals interested in using technology to help in preparing for and responding to crises as well as humanitarian relief – such as the current crisis in Haiti. What’s most important here is that most of the people involved in this movement are volunteers and, in the best tradition of the Internet Generation, are committed to mass collaboration to developing free, open source tools that can be provided to crisis response workers.
Currently much of the efforts of these organizations have been directed towards international crisis response efforts, but programs like the Department of Homeland Security’s Virtual USA are beginning to engage them to help with tools for domestic emergency preparedness and response efforts. An example of this is DHS’s engagement with the TechNet Crisis Response Working Group that was established after meetings with Secretary Janet Napolitano and other DHS officials. One place where this will be discussed in more detail is the Technologies for Critical Incident Preparedness Conference (TCIP) sponsored by DHS’s Science and Technology Directorate along with the Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice and the Department of Defense’s Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and America’s Security Affairs – which is being held in Philadelphia Feb 2-4.