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A Sahana response to Hurricane Sandy

An emergency software package broadly originated by a group of enterprising Sri Lankans is now being used in New York City, as the United States battles against the impact of Hurricane Sandy.

Ceylontoday, 2012-11-02 14:45:00

A Sahana response to Hurricane Sandy

An emergency software package broadly originated by a group of enterprising Sri Lankans is now being used in New York City, as the United States battles against the impact of Hurricane Sandy.

The Office of Emergency Management in New York City has been relying on the software known as Sahana,  developed by Sahana Software Foundation.

The Sahana Software Foundation is an open source software developer, specializing in providing information management solutions that enable organizations and communities to better prepare for and respond to disasters. It is assisting the City of New York to manage its response to Hurricane Sandy at present.

Emergency software package

On Monday, 29 October, the City of New York officially requested the assistance of the Sahana Software Foundation in support of their activation of the Coastal Storm Plan and use of Sahana Kilauea software or the Sahana Registry Programme to register individuals, families as well as staff at one of the City’s 76 hurricane evacuation centres.

This emergency software package was developed largely as a response to the 2004 tsunami and its impacts that highlighted the need for a sound disaster communication system in the region. It has been field-tested and has gained wide acceptance over the years in the developing world and is now being adopted in the developed world as well.

The Sahana software foundation is not an open source software developer but also has a global community of volunteers that volunteer their domain knowledge and computing skills at the time of need.

Communication dilemmas

Given the complexities in managing multiple agencies and offering a common platform to manage communication in all types of hazards through an effective alerting and reporting system, sprung Sahana to Life. These communication dilemmas, according to Nuwan Waidyanatha, a Lead Research Fellow at LIRNEAsia and the Chair of Sahana Standards, “can be overcome through the use of globally accepted interoperable and standardized technology such as the common alerting protocol-enabled Sahana Alerting/Messaging Module.” The free and open source Sahana System has matured since its inception in 2005 and is now being integrated into the call centre and the interactive voice response system of the Disaster Management Centre (DMC) in Sri Lanka, he says.

The introduction of a registry of alerting authorities and implementation of the alerting and messaging broker will soon allow the DMC to regulate and assist in coordinating emergencies of all scale. The software would allow the DMC to build a database of macro and micro incidents that can be leveraged as evidence of an active climate change adaptation policy.

It has been proven in many cases that such broker software can help break the silos and foster lateral information share between organizations, adds Waidyanatha. “It would be one step in moving away from the finger-pointing game and in bringing relevant government agencies under a single platform and framework in relation to alerting and situational-reporting.”

Meanwhile in New York City, to manage future requests, a web form has been added on the Sahana Software Foundation website and help desk procedures to process requests for support.

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