Sahana software for Hurricane Sandy: New York City is using it

Posted on November 1, 2012  /  1 Comments

The City’s Office of Emergency Management has been relying on Sahana software for its shelter management and registration programs since 2007. Sri Lanka also has it. The Sahana Software Foundation is assisting the City of New York in its use of Sahana software to manage its response to Hurricane Sandy.

Sahana software foundation is not just an open source software developer but also a global community of volunteers that volunteer their domain knowledge and computing skills at the time of need. Read the situational report, from Mark Prustalis, SSF President & CEO, below.

“Many have been asking about our involvement in the response to Hurricane Sandy.  I wanted to share with you a brief report of our activities.

On the morning of Monday, October 29, 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 (the “Sahana Registry Program”) to register individuals and families as well as staff at one of the City’s 76 hurricane evacuation centers.
I pulled together a small team of volunteers with some familiarity with the Vesuvius or Krakatoa codebases  on which Kilauea is branched from and who would  be best positioned to assist with debugging efforts, along with some systems administration help if needed, as the City servers are hosted on Amazon EC2 (production – east coast with backup on west coast servers).   This group includes Chamindra de Silva, Greg Miernicki, Glenn Pierson, Ramindu Deshapriya, Fran Boon, Praneeth Bodduluri and Pat Tressel.  We are using the #sahana-agasti IRC room as a place to idle while awaiting any requests from the City for support.
A rundown of events follows:
  • Contacted by CUNY/OEM representative Monday, October 29 at 10:00 am EDT requesting technical support standby capacity for potential application support / bug fixing for Sahana Registry Program (Sahana Kilauea)
  • Organized volunteer team of software developers and systems administrators to join #sahana-agasti chat room for coordination.
  • Facilitated request for support from the City and resulting permission for NLM team to assist Sahana Software Foundation operations in support of City of New York.
  • Received support request from shelter worker at 5:30 PM EDT via web support form on Sahana Foundation website who reported problem with Sahana system.
    • Escalated to CUNY who requested we follow up with requests to see how we might help
    • Placed telephone call to shelter – ascertained that problem was temporary inability to access system around 5:00 PM EDT that had since resolved
  • To manage future requests, we set up a Web Form on Sahana Software Foundation website and help desk procedures to process requests for support.  Designed to direct shelter workers looking for assistance from the Sahana Software Foundation website to the appropriate support channel:
  • Received spontaneous offer of telemedicine support from German Institute of Disaster Medicine and the European Masters Program in Disaster Medicine on October 30.
    • Vetted source and forwarded offer through to NYC OEM for consideration.
    • Connected group with NYC OEM and AidMatrix NYC registration of volunteer offers of assistance.
  • Provided advice and offered assistance in testing scripts used by CUNY Queens College team to correct errors in manual data entry at many of the City’s Evacuation Centers.
  • Standby team available from Monday, October 29 – present
While our assistance has not been greatly needed, our availability, willingness to assist, and expert resources have made a positive impact with the City. Shelter operations will continue for the next couple of days and we will continue to remain on standby for any support requests that do come through – either from users or from CUNY in terms of technical support.
I will provide a final update once operations wind down. For myself, absent any emergencies, the rest of my day is devoted to Halloween.

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