Disaster preparedness, response and recovery

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When it comes to responding to crises, there are those who make a show, and those who show up. IBM always has engaged in crisis response in the communities where we live, work and do business. We arrive early and stay for the long haul — calling upon an integrated portfolio of advanced technologies and global expertise to deliver what it takes for affected individuals and communities to regroup, rebuild and recover. IBMers have the desire, the leadership support and the training to serve. We get systems up and running, create new systems where needed, and help people get back to the business of life. Through the delivery of integrated solutions by mobilized teams and inspired individuals, IBM reaches out to communities in their times of need.

Assisting Nepal in the wake of tragedy

The massive earthquakes that struck Nepal and surrounding areas in April and May 2015 killed more than 8,000 people, injured more than 21,000, and affected more than 8 million. In the immediate aftermath of the first tremor, a four-member IBM India team was invited to join Indian government officials in Nepal to assess needs, determine options, and begin immediate implementation of technology and business solutions to speed recovery. IBM India has long-standing relationships with the Indian and Nepalese governments through our involvement with numerous disaster relief efforts. In this instance, the team collaborated to develop solutions to:

  • Improve and analyze missing persons data for heavily damaged border regionss
  • Track distribution of relief materials
  • Establish an integrated response and relief reporting process
  • Evaluate the appropriateness of technological assistance offers
  • Work with long-term partner the Global Peace Foundation to support a youth disaster rebuilding initiative, using Sahana Eden open-source software

The integrated relief team used Sahana and other technologies to facilitate long-term rebuilding efforts, including youth leadership training in citizenship and service as part of a broadly based community mobilization effort.

Disaster response in Nepal



Number of Nepalese families supported with emergency food, healthcare, sanitation and hygiene, and housing



Number of youth organized by IBM project management training to build 600 shelters for earthquake survivors



Organization partners trained on Sahana disaster management software to prepare them for future events

Responding to massive flooding in India

In the last two months of 2015, heavy rains and extensive flooding inundated eight of 22 districts in the city of Chennai, part of a metro area that is home to more than 12 million people — including more than 5,000 IBMers. Though affected by the flooding themselves, 17 IBMers were among the first to participate in search and rescue operations. Then, after the first phase of response, the IBM team worked to deliver basic relief supplies, including food and medicine. IBMers in Chennai shared the community’s needs online via IBM digital channels, and employees from throughout India responded with desperately needed supplies and funds — assisting more than 3,000 impacted residents of Chennai.

IBM also developed and deployed both shorter- and longer-term disaster recovery solutions for Chennai. Experts from across our business designed and donated an installation of one of the world’s most sophisticated disaster recovery solutions. IBM awarded a grant to the state of Tamil Nadu (of which Chennai is the capital) to establish a cloud-based IBM Intelligent Operations Center for Emergency Management. The solution integrates critical weather, power, traffic, health service and shelter information from municipal sources, and displays their real-time status on a map. Emergency management personnel can run test scenarios as conditions evolve — enabling them to optimize resources delivery.

Essential to the ongoing effectiveness of the Intelligent Operations Center will be forecast data from The Weather Company®, the digital assets of which IBM acquired in 2015. The same types of data analysis of weather patterns that will streamline logistics in the for-profit sector will help Chennai anticipate developing crises, instead of simply reacting to them.

The Weather Company will play a critical role in strengthening IBM’s analytics and client service capabilities. In the for-profit sector, this means giving clients enhanced visibility across logistics, weather-based fluctuations in customer demand, and other differentiators that can enable a business to operate more profitably. And in the nonprofit sector, we are gratified to know that our cloud-based Intelligent Operations Center for Emergency Management will use weather data to help predict and prepare for natural disasters, and to speed life-saving recovery after a disaster by giving decision makers the critical information they need to allocate resources where they are needed most.

— Cameron Clayton, General Manager, The Weather Company

IBM also built and provided a mobile application to enable crowdsourced reporting of real-time needs directly to the appropriate government agencies. The IBM mobile “Citizen Reporter” app feeds data to the Intelligent Operations Center as part of a multi-faceted system that uses predictive analytics and cloud computing to help Chennai residents stay ahead of the next crisis.

Preparing for future challenges

We can’t stop natural disasters, but we can do our best to be prepared. In 2015, IBM Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs sponsored a global digital conference and hackathon to inform and inspire employees to apply their expertise and IBM technology to managing future challenges. The Open Development for Disaster Response hackathon attracted thousands of IBMers to participate in live and recorded discussion sessions on key disaster relief topics. Subject-matter experts from inside and outside IBM addressed topics ranging from first-responder information to communications networks in a crisis environment to crowdsourcing damage assessments. These virtual education sessions laid the foundation for a greater understanding of technology’s role in disaster relief and recovery, and inspired more than 30 innovative projects to integrate IBM technologies into disaster response protocols. IBM Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs also helped host a public contest to encourage the use of IBM’s Bluemix development platform to create disaster relief solutions.

Responding to global refugee crises

IBM continues our long-term response to the persistent crisis in Europe, border states and other countries where hundreds of thousands of people have sought refuge after fleeing their homes in Syria, Afghanistan and countries in northern Africa. In 2015, the Italian NGO INTERSOS asked for IBM’s assistance with registering the medical conditions of arriving refugees. Data for these records needed to include images, video and audio, and providing the ability to search content while protecting patient confidentiality necessitated a powerful and sophisticated IT system. IBM deployed an existing media management solution that enabled secure storage of sensitive information with field access via mobile and desktop devices. The INTERSOS system was launched at the end of 2015, and IBM is developing a similar solution for Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders).

Thanks to IBM’s mobile and cloud expertise, we have been able to transform how INTERSOS supports and processes migrants [to our] region of Italy. In time, we hope to incorporate the use of the app to other regions and organizations, so that even more migrants can be served.

— Kostas Moschochoritis, General Director, INTERSOS

IBM also worked with the German Red Cross (Deutsches Rotes Kreuz) to develop intake and service solutions for refugees from around the world — especially those from Syria and Afghanistan. A version of the Sahana disaster management system helped the Red Cross in Mannheim manage their resources in the face of a constant stream of migrants whose records needed to be accurate, secure and available for ongoing resource planning and management. Our implementation of Sahana on the IBM Cloud enabled distributed and mobile access to migrant registration, health, security and location records.

The Sahana system is supporting employee and volunteer decision making by providing a single view of data across a variety of devices. IBM is making additional grants in France and Turkey to support organizations serving the needs of refugees and migrants. We are providing pro bono consulting for the development of data strategies, and support for matching refugees with housing and job skills training. In addition, IBM volunteers are helping refugees with language training, general literacy and finding employment. Of particular note is the effort of 60 IBM Austria employees who worked through the Vienna School Council to tutor 20 children from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria in German. This was an essential effort to help the children assimilate into Austrian culture, and to mitigate their educational disruption.

Critical responses to the European migrant crisis

IBM built a custom mobile app for Italian nonprofit INTERSOS that enabled doctors to collect medical data from nearly 1,000 arriving migrants. IBM is customizing another version of the app for use by French authorities in partnership with Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders).

IBM’s Cloud implementation of Sahana disaster recovery software enabled the German Red Cross (Deutsches Rotes Kreuz) to register more than 4,000 migrants.

IBM has coordinated nearly 1,500 volunteers (IBMers and others) in Germany and Austria — including volunteers in Vienna who are mentoring and tutoring migrant children in German language and culture to help minimize the disruption to their educations.

Developing “apps for social good”

In 2015, IBM launched Apps for Social Good, a collection of signature mobile apps developed to complement the IBM Impact Grants program. Built on a standard IBM platform that uses Bluemix and SoftLayer,® Apps for Social Good provide volunteer engagement, disaster response and other capabilities that governments, nonprofits and other types of organizations can use to coordinate efforts, monitor progress and improve the timeliness and effectiveness of life-saving relief.