Emergency Information Service Launched in Haiti

posted on: January 17, 2010

A free and open source Emergency Information Service InSTEDD developed with Thomson Reuters Foundation was just launched in Haiti late Saturday night, an incredible feat after late-night Kreyol translations, 15 temporarily missing bags in Port au Prince and a faltering telecom infrastructure. We hope that this information sharing tool will make a difference in the lives of so many Haitians who are suffering right now.

EIS allows people in Haiti to report problems (missing persons, shelter, food issues) over SMS and to get accurate information by neighborhood. Thomson Reuters is working closely with the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies so that critical information (like where medical care, food is available) will get to the general public and community organizations. After its launch Saturday night, hundreds of messages have already been sent into the system. Read more about exactly how the SMS reporting works here. We are also working closely with Ushahidi, who are also receiving the SMS messages, translating them and posting them on their site.

InSTEDD got the call from Thomson Reuters Foundation to go to Haiti last Tuesday night, a few hours after the earthquake. We had built the EIS system last year, an extension of our RIFF platform, and it was first tested in a simulation exercise in Indonesia in September. Haiti is the first time it is being used in a real disaster. Our EIS lead Nico flew out Wednesday to the Dominican Republic, and arrived in Haiti by Friday to support the EIS deployment. Nico and our CEO Eric are camping near the airfield in Port au Prince (pictured left).

On Thursday, we started translating the EIS system. We put out an email request for translators, and received responses from all over the Untied States, the UK and even from Haiti. Within 48 hours the almost the entire EIS site was translated into French and Kreyol.  Click on the language in the top right corner, and then click on Tomohon. We used Pootle to get the EIS website translated. Thank you translators!

Led by our CEO Eric Rasmussen, InSTEDD has also been involved in coordinating a number of communication efforts as well, and ensuring that the resources get to those who need them.

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