Thoughts on Holistically Dealing with Disaster Scenarios

I’ve been thinking a lot about a couple very strategic items lately. The most important is how we deal holistically with the whole issue of when a crisis breaks out. It seems to me that there are three main needs for any disaster:

  • Coordination
  • Community
  • Information

At Ushahidi we’re dealing pretty heavily with the information part of the equation, but not doing a whole lot about the other two yet. This struck me particularly hard when I saw what Andy Carvin and crew did around hurricane Gustav, and are getting set to do with the other hurricanes this season (see links below). They not only had a map aggregating information, but set up a wiki (coordination), and a site (community interaction). Cobbled together, not pretty, but effective.

What can we learn from this at Ushahidi? Where can we plug into other community-led efforts and offer our expertise and resource to help build a more open and effective toolbox for individuals and groups trying to make something good happen in a bad situation?

Learning from Gustav

Take the hurricane Gustav work done by Andy Carvin, Andrew Turner (and many others) as a model:

Think holistically about it, what is really needed when a crisis/disaster arises? Back to our 3 strong list:

  • Coordination: With local organizations (Gov’t, Non-profit, Communities – virtual and real, tools and technology)
  • Community: For input, For finding out what’s happening, dealing with issing persons
  • Information: Aggregation and filtering tools and processes

Ideas for Ushahidi

The whole ecosystem needs to work together, needs to be painless to setup and use

  • Create an instance of Ushahidi (when hosted on, or when selected), that automatically creates a new entry/section on a Wiki for coordination and information
  • Automatically creates a Forum section too? – Separation between “reports” and “discussion” around a disaster, but easy to find both in main nav.

More importantly, dealing with suggestions like the one made by Deanna Zandt about creating a new wiki plan for hurricanes. It seems to me that we might at the least get involved with this idea and see how we can help, as there is clearly some overlap in ideology.

(download PDF of the above image)

2 Responses to “Thoughts on Holistically Dealing with Disaster Scenarios”

  1. Just a quick update for your readers (and I’m posting a similar note in the community, too) — John Walling and I sat last night and started hammering out the meta of this mind map that I created, which was an absolutely fascinating process. A concept that I’d dealt with before, but never really thought that much about, was introduced by John– faceted classification:

    This went a long way in helping us brainstorm loads of possibilities based on use cases: “I am a survivor from South Carolina who needs to figure out where I can get help rebuilding my house,” vs. “I’m a volunteer outside of the strike zone and I would like to find info about helping animals and pets in the region.”

    Overnight, John fleshed out the whole starter system:

    Hope this is useful to you all. Once I’m a little further along today, would love to mesh info…