Microsoft/Red Cross Hope All Are Safe And Well
On the anniversary of the Hurricane Katrina disaster, Microsoft announced an upgrade to its KatrinaSafe.org website, created through an extensive partnership with the Red Cross. A new site, called Safe and Well, allows disaster survivors to post information about their condition, and allows loved ones separated from it to search for information as it is available.
The original site for this type of purpose, was set up just after the hurricane struck. Katrinasafe.org, which offered survivors and families the same type of online tool, was developed in four days by Microsoft database architect Jim Carroll. Microsoft says in the past year, over 340,000 people have logged onto the site to use the tool.
The Red Cross' Safe and Well List mirrors that effort, also developed with Microsoft's help, and intends the tool to be the standard for exchanging welfare information in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. The partnership hopes it will allow for faster communication during times of crisis.
Guidance for the tool's development came when the Red Cross met with a technology consortium to address the lessons learned from Katrina. They identified flaws in infrastructure that were the most pressing for future disaster response, and looked to technology companies to help them solve those problems.
The Red Cross identified three key areas for increased technology investments, some of which was made by Microsoft:
Creating an emergency call-center with the capacity to process 1 million cases in 10 days (or 100,000 cases per day), and the maximum capacity of 2 million cases.
Improving response capabilities by pre-positioning computers, satellite equipment, and phones, radios and other communications technology in 21 cities, within nine coastal states.
Adopting a disaster welfare system based on Katrinasafe.org. This Web site, now known as Safe and Well (https://disastersafe.redcross.org/), allows people to search for information on a family member, or survivors to post relevant information about their location and physical condition, all in a manner that complies with privacy and child protection laws. People will also be able to register by phone if Internet access isn't readily available.
"The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was a perfect example of a partnership in action and how the expertise of partners and volunteers can help create the foundation for future improvements in disaster response capabilities," said Steve Cooper, CIO of the Red Cross.
Microsoft was heavily involved in Katrina relief. Aside from the website development, Microsoft employees helped with logistical communications by increasing the capacity of the Red Cross network by 400 percent and deploying three of Microsoft's satellite-equipped "Across America" buses to Red Cross relief centers in Louisiana and Mississippi.
The company also pitched in to improve the logistics of medical relief efforts. Microsoft mobility specialist Dawn Gagnon enlisted the help of family and friends to program 180 Microsoft SmartPhones. The provision of the phones to 150 National Guard troops and 30 doctors at the Red Cross triage center in Baton Rouge enabled e-mail, instant message and phone calls for quicker emergency responses.
Microsoft, Red Cross, Katrina
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About the Author:
Jason L. Miller is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.
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