Corporate Social Responsibility

CSR Partner: InSTEDD

Technology speeds disaster response in times of crisis

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When a disaster strikes, a well-coordinated rescue and response can mean the difference between life and death for those affected. InSTEDD (Innovative Support to Emergencies, Diseases and Disasters) designs and uses open source technologies to help organizations better deliver critical services to vulnerable populations.

Who: International network embraces technology, improves collaboration

InSTEDD's team of public health experts, scientists, and software engineers designs and uses open source technologies that can improve collaboration, information flow, and knowledge sharing, including during disaster response.

  • 95 percent of people trapped or injured during natural disasters are rescued by neighbors or “citizen volunteers” and they have an 80 percent chance of survival if rescued during the first 24 hours
  • With support from Cisco and the Cisco Foundation, InSTEDD developed an emergency response coordination program to help American Red Cross chapters in the San Francisco Bay Area recruit and deploy volunteers more quickly.

How: Technology facilitates rapid response

With Cisco’s support, InSTEDD developed Watchfire, a rapid recruitment tools that reduces the time it takes to deploy responders to a disaster site.

  • Watchfire uses GPS, voice, and text messages to contact only those responders who are in closest proximity to the disaster, or who have indicated they are available to respond and have the right skills, and then deploy them as quickly as possible.
  • Watchfire was developed for nine San Francisco Bay Area chapters of the American Red Cross and helps them organize volunteer teams, maintain schedules, and track skills and contact information.
  • Watchfire helps disaster response teams to better deal with often rapidly changing circumstances and deliver the best care possible.

Impact Multiplied

Watchfire can be used by governments, public agencies, NGOs and community-based networks that rely on volunteers to provide service in times of crisis. Cisco partner, NetHope, has adopted Watchfire to improve crisis relief efforts in the developing world. This consortium of international humanitarian organizations works to improve crisis relief efforts in the developing world through the strategic use of technology.

  • 85% reduction in the time it takes the American Red Cross to recruit volunteers to disaster sites, in initial test scenarios
  • 87%* felt Watchfire met or exceeded their expectations
  • 100%* noted Watchfire's best feature was its speedy call-down process that saved time coordinating Disaster Action Response teams
  • 3.4 million people could be reached through American Red Cross teams covering the 9 Bay Area pilot counties

* Members of American Red Cross's Disaster Action Teams, a local response unit, following evaluation in test scenarios

"Personally I feel (Watchfire) will be one of the best things we can do for our coordinators. Instead of having to pick up the phone and call 20 to 30 volunteers just to get someone out on a call, this will make calls for you."
-- Justin Perry, Disaster Services Lead Co-chair, San Mateo County, American Red Cross