I had a dream once – I was walking along a river in China and then an audible alarm emitting from my mobile phone got my attention. When I looked at the screen, surprisingly, a symbol with a red border showing rising water and a human figure running uphill towards shelter, was displaying. Later I realized, being illiterate in Mandarin, a text message would have done me no good. However, the symbol made perfect sense. It was an immediate threat of a sudden-onset flash flood (possibly caused by a damn burst).
VoiceICT4D project page LIRNEasia, through a stakeholder forum, advocated the Sri Lanka Disaster Management Center (DMC) to move towards a multi-agency situational-awareness platform by creating a register of alerting authorities and then sharing it’s call center and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system resources for emergency communication. The “Do you Hear Me” video, communicating the need for voice-enabled Information Communication Technologies (ICTs), to empower community-based emergency coordination, was visited by 496 viewers, of which 48 or them shared their knowledge on the subject. UNISDR debut film festival on DRR, selected our video as as one of the best three in the category of “best human interest story” Peer-reviewed scientific articles presented the realization study evidence emphasizing the practical technical instabilities and deficits in those technologies. The message was news to most researchers and practitioners. IVR-based solutions are gradually gaining momentum.
Our findings from the recently concluded Interactive Voice-enabled alerting and situational reporting pilot revealed that Speech-To-Text and Text-To-Speech were impossible to apply with audio over low quality transmission networks (listen to this audio to get a sense how bad it can be). One could sample at much higher frequencies then that produces an extremely large mega byte file which may take hours to multi-cast; hence, not recommended for critical life-saving communications. Our conclusions drawn were mainly on the situational reporting functions. The U.S.
The P.800 Difficult Percentage (or Difficulty Score) is an International Telecommunications Union Standardization sector recommended method for testing transmission quality in one’s own laboratory. We adopted this method in our feasibility study to enable Freedom Fone for emergency data exchange. The project studied the design challenges for exchanging the Freedom Fone interactive voice data with the Sahana Disaster Management System. This entailed taking situational reports supplied by Sarvodaya Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members in audible (or speech) forms and transforming them to text.
The usefulness and ease-of-use of interactive voice, with Freedom Fone, for Sarvodaya Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members to supply incident information was blogged two weeks back. Now the question is “how is all that information put to use in responding to those incidents?”. In here we tell parts of that story. CERT members call one of the four telephone numbers to access Freedom Fone; then press the “reporting” menu item number on their phone keypad to record a “field observation report”.
We conducted controlled-exercises, with Lanka Jathika Sarvodaya Shramadana Sangamaya (Sarvodaya) Hazard Information Hub (HIH) Operators and Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members. The HIH data center is in Moratuwa. The study using interactive voice, field tested the technology in Colombo, Matara, Nuwara-eliya, and Ratnapura Districts. Figure to the left shows an average ease-of-use of 3.95 and usefulness of 4.
We recently conducted a training and an exercise with Sarvodaya Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members in Colombo, Matara, Nuwara-eliya, and Ratnpura Districts. This was an action of the feasibility study to enable Freedom Fone with voice-based emergency data exchange (FF4EDXL). The training involved exposing them to the Freedom Fone interactive voice response system. The exercise involved the participating CERT members using the Freedom Fone system to supply answers to a survey. Each response was recorded as an audio file (MP3) through the telephone call and stored in the FF system.
In our current emergency communication research aiming to enable interoperability between Freedom Fone and the Sahana Disaster Management System for disseminating Common Alerting Protocol messages and receiving Situational Reports over voice channels, we came a cross the situation where the 2N UMTS modem license had silently expired. During our silent-test this weekend, in preparation for a drill this week, we noticed that the license had abruptly expired. Unaware of the licensing dependency, the Sarvodaya Hazard Information Hub staff were scratching their heads trying to figure out what had happened. Even though the problem was identified, given that it is the weekend, getting any immediate support from the vendor is questionable. This project: FF4EDXL follows from LIRNEasia’s HazInfo and Biosurveillance research.
Why voice for Sarvodaya’s emergency communication? The experience from the 2011 Foods in Batticaloa and Ampara districts was that Sarvodaya was able to secure aid from various sources by providing the actual ground situation through their web portal. It had images and information of rescue operations, victims, camps, and the devastation. The images and stories came from Sarvodaya head office staff who were deployed to the area. They used cameras, phones, and the internet to relay the ground situation to the Hazard Information Hub (HIH).