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By Microsoft Disaster Response Team
Recently our team had the opportunity to attend the Computerworld Honors Program which recognizes organizations that use information technology to promote and advance public welfare, benefit society and change the world for the better. Event attendees came from organizations big and small spanning industries from financial services to transportation and everything in between.
It was a wonderful opportunity to hear how others are using technology to create change. We were honored to have been invited to participate and receive an award in the collaboration category for Microsoft’s Disaster Response Portal. Used in the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami as well as the 2011 Joplin, Missouri tornado, Microsoft’s Disaster Response Portal is a solution designed to give government agencies a single location that fosters information sharing and collaboration among first responders, and is used to disseminate public information to individuals and the news media.
During the Japanese crisis, food shortages and distribution issues were a significant problem. The shelves in markets were empty as people in the community stocked up in response to the nuclear situation. Additionally, transportation challenges delayed delivery of food to shelters. Second Harvest Japan, Japan’s food banking network, with the help of Aidmatrix, used Microsoft’s Disaster Response Portal to communicate rapid updates to the government agencies, relief organizations, shelters and individuals. In addition, the flexible structure of the portal enabled them to integrate several solutions into a single website making it easy to find a local food bank using Bing maps, make donations of goods and services and volunteer at a Second Harvest Japan food bank.
Following the Joplin tornado, the portal was, as it always is, hosted on Windows Azure in Microsoft data centers, eliminating the need for first responders to run it on local computer servers. Responders used the portal to identify safe driving routes, integrating a Twitter feed and Bing Maps to track team members and leveraging it to disseminate information to the public. The portal became a one-stop workshop for action plans, site photos and progress reports.
As the number of natural disasters continues to grow, the Microsoft Disaster Response program views technology as a driving force behind empowering government responders and NGOs to quickly react, delivering critical relief services, bringing families back together and ultimately saving lives. The Microsoft Disaster Response program is aimed at improving the response capabilities of lead response organizations during times of disaster while remaining committed to developing long term solutions, strategies, and relationships that can foster faster recovery and lasting stability.
As a result of these efforts, Microsoft has been able to turn its technology expertise into solutions, including the Disaster Response Portal that address some of the biggest challenges emergency service organizations face.
We were honored to be chosen as an award recipient by Computerworld for Microsoft’s Disaster Response Portal. A full list of winners can be found here.