Posted by Claire Bonilla
Senior Director, Disaster Management, Microsoft

It’s just over a week since the heartbreaking events in Japan that caused such destruction. Over the past week, we’ve all seen the strength of the human spirit and the generosity of people around the world.

I’m incredibly proud of our people in Japan, who are working very hard to help government and nonprofit agencies with relief efforts and working closely with our local partners and customers to make sure they have the support they need. We have had a number of new developments, and want to make sure people and organizations are aware of the latest resources available to help them.

Customer Support
We continue to be focused on helping our customers and partners get their businesses back up and running through IT support. As the engine of the local community, if they are not up and running, it can dramatically hamper overall recovery efforts. We see many customers in Japan taking up our free support services and temporary free software licenses to get their organizations operational. In addition, customers are making use of the free online services we’re offering such as Exchange Online, and SharePoint Online.

J!ResQ Emergency Contact Application
There are still thousands of people unaccounted for in Japan. Microsoft supports our partner, Digital Office Japan, which has created a new emergency contact application called J!ResQ (J Rescue). The application enables people who have been dislocated in the aftermath of the earthquake and the tsunami to quickly and easily record and send a voice message to the email addresses of their family and friends automatically using their smartphone or mobile phone.

The application is built on Windows Azure, which is temporarily being offered at no cost to organizations in Japan impacted by recent events or helping with relief efforts. The use of Azure means that the application can handle large volumes of users and can be available outside impacted areas.

It takes just 15 seconds for people to send their location and voice messages to their family and friends through the J!ResQ application. It also enables people to search for their loved ones using their e-mail address. We’re also working to translate the application so it can be used anywhere in the world.

Power Management and the Rolling Blackout Calendar Tool
Other issues facing people and businesses in Japan are rolling blackouts and pressure on the electricity grid. We’ve posted guidance on the Microsoft website in Japan and are working with customers to make sure they are aware of the power-saving features already built into our Windows desktop and Windows server products, which significantly reduce power consumption. In addition, we’ve published a free tool that places all the scheduled blackout times and dates automatically into your Outlook or Windows Live Hotmail calendar.

Disaster Response Portal
We’re also offering governmental and nonprofit agencies in Japan access to a free online Disaster Response portal that can quickly and easily be customized to help them communicate with citizens and other agencies. One example of an organization already using this portal is Second Harvest Japan, a food distribution network. They are using the site to provide their community of supporters and agencies with the latest situational updates, access to resources and information on the very latest food donation and distribution needs. 

As relief organizations struggle to deal with the demand for information on their services, the portal provides a free and simple way to provide people with a reliable, scalable and up-to-date online resource. Our direct support of nonprofit relief organizations continues and we’ll provide updates on their progress in the coming weeks.

Bing Maps
Bing created a new, high-quality map tool to help relief agencies and others navigate through the damaged areas.

Awareness and Donations
We have posted ongoing updates, resources and information on the situation in Japan on MSN to help keep people informed. As with past disasters, we also provide awareness through Public Service Announcements on both MSN and Xbox Live, helping to drive donations to the American Red Cross.

In the wake of disasters, it is increasingly common to see cyber-attacks against people searching for news, looking to make donations and ultimately resulting in fraud and the spread of malicious software. We have, in conjunction with our Trustworthy Computing group, produced a number of blog posts such as this one on Avoiding Donation Fraud, and assembled guidance to help people have a safer experience online.

For the latest up to date information on our relief efforts in Japan as well as useful resources on how you can support the relief agencies on the ground please visit our disaster response page.