Quite the few days here in Washington DC at the AIDF Disaster Relief Summit. Check out our Twitter stream for all of our updates – and make sure to follow us too! I seem to have had the New York weather follow me down to DC, with temperatures in the twenties and thirties. Oh well.
I spent Tuesday morning at the Voice of America studios listening to several expert presentations on journalism in disaster and crisis areas. Lots to learn and think about:
- Ebola Zone Reporters “Personal Protective Equipment is difficult to use properly. Used improperly, it’s more dangerous than using nothing.”
- Ebola Zone Reporters “Personal Protective Equipment gives false sense of security and encourages journalists to go places they shouldn’t be”
- Ebola Zone Reporters “Important to establish consistent safety protocols for your vehicle and hotel room”
- Information communication IS aid
- Keep in mind that the responder will be on the defensive when talked to by a journalist
- Journalists should go to crisis training and simulations so responders become comfortable with who they are
- Audience “You can’t forget that the CNN in the US is different than the CNN in Africa when it comes to Ebola reporting.”
- Technology innovation today allows for “care and outcomes” influenced across the total end to end care pathway
- In the US, first responders often have access to multiple vehicles. Elsewhere, you need multi-purpose vehicles.
One of the more interesting statements I heard was one I really like. “Information IS aid”. Journalists, and sites like Disaster.Com, that provide information about disasters and crises are providing a form of aid to communities.
Over the other two days of the conference we’ve talked about some great topics – the information and communications technology landscape, effective communications, field personnel safety, social networking, improving product standards, operational efficiency, fleet management and more. There was also a conference version of Shark Tank with several organizations presenting their relief products to a panel for discussion.
Some random notes and tips from the talks:
- How do you turn data from white noise into real information? (no good answer.)
- You can walk into disaster areas with lots of technology, but you may find it difficult to charge the gadgets – so stay simple.
- You can’t know whether new information you receive is valuable until you know what “situation normal” is like for the region – so you can compare.
- Power, bandwidth and differing technologies hamper data collection during events.
- Having technology that bridges low tech to high tech communications system at the community level is crucial
- When we go to a community and explain what we want to do and how we’ll do it, local responders have not necessarily been trained
- First responders come in with technology, but the local community barely has a cell phone that functions
- Technology should empower and enable decision makers, and it should be available at the community level
- A lot of solutions we see brought into emergencies are not scalable. They serve a commmunity as opposed to a nation.
- Understanding local customs and culture is critical in creating effective communications in communities and nations
- OFDA has updated their Android disaster app to localize it and pull in regional/local information in multiple countries.
- We’ll see 2-way comms between agencies/victims in a few years. The challenge will be how the agency coordinates response.
- In remote regions, communications technology is often available but infrastructure isn’t
- Field personnel safety: “Is the level of aid being provided proportional to the safety risk of those delivering it?”
- More aid agencies should emphasize safety and security with crisis plans, communication plans and enforcement of rules.
- Field Safety: It’s not just about the technology, but it’s also knowledge about how to use it
- Program delivery sometimes stops because money has to be re-allocated from aid to worker safety. Think of safety early!
- Some of the biggest hurdles in social media use for disaster and aid: White noise, lack of normalization and standardization between networks, lack of data standards, need for human eyes to understand what the volume of data actually is saying
- Supporting affected populations generates impacts on safety, protection, health and livelihoods
- Using poor quality products in disaster relief hurts more than helps
- Simple solution to minimizing fire risk of tents at aid camps – new inexpensive fire retardants
- Safety vs. economy is a tough battle when developing new disaster relief and aid products
- Dr. Joxel Garcia (Washington DC’s Health Director) – Remember that Ebola is only affecting a minority of countries in Africa
- Dr. Joxel Garcia – When Ebola hit NYC, we didn’t say it hit the eastern seaboard. We shouldn’t stigmatize an entire country.
- Dr. Joxel Garcia – Regarding Ebola – We need to make sure we use science before we make policy.
- Open Source and Open Data helps to improve operational efficiency
- Operational efficiency in relief work “We try to use the power of the crowd” (Red Cross)
- Pre-planning and mapping out a supply chain that moves fast is critical for operational efficiency
- What’s happening on the ground, knowing needs, and prioritizing what is sent is critical for efficiency
- There’s a big need to build local capacity when external funding runs out
- Seeing a shift toward self insurance programs in aid and relief groups
- For self insurance, need good claims mgmt, internal payment funding and reserve fund for catastrophic loss
- Aid groups need to have a good plan for LIFECYCLE maintenance and end of life disposal of fleets
- Vehicle and fleet management is the second highest cost after staffing. Big bucks, and needs proper management.
- Audience question to panel – When is it right to move to self insurance for fleets? Dead air. Time for some research!
- Changing emergency response into relief response – H2O purification, fire fighting and medical care in one truck (regarding a new vehicle by Terranova Global Trading Solutions)
All AIDF Tweets from us and others:
- Excellent information! I wish I could have been there. Thank you for bringing back notes. I haven't finished reading them yet, but working through it as I speak.