By Microsoft Disaster Response Team

On the heels of Microsoft’s Local Impact Map announcement, we are pleased to share that we are now also able to provide relief organizations with the ability to broadcast stories and highlight needs during times of disaster through a tool called Notes from the Ground. Hosted within Local Impact Map, Notes from the Ground will deliver eye-witness responder stories via photos, videos, and messages, to provide real-time access to information on relief needs in a disaster-stricken area.

Our partnership with Aidmatrix, a longtime Microsoft Disaster Relief partner, helped bring this vision to life. Aidmatrix works to provide support during humanitarian crises through the use of technology and partnerships to get the right aid to people when and where they need it most.

Aidmatrix and other nonprofits will be able to use Notes From the Ground to share their relief stories during disasters to increase awareness for the conditions on the ground and the need for community support. These stories will then be channeled through the Microsoft network of web-based communication vehicles such as MSN.com, MSNBC.com, Bing, Microsoft.com, Windows Live, and Microsoft’s social media outlets.

“Disasters are emotional, high-stress and fast-acting situations that leave people wanting to know more, specifically how they can help,” said Keith Thode, COO & CTO of Aidmatrix. “Knowing that Microsoft has this tool readily available within 24 hours of a disaster will allow us to connect with our network of partners and enable them to tell their stories, highlight the work they are doing and connect targeted donations to where they are needed most.”

In addition to exposing the good work being done by the relief community, we hope that Notes from the Ground will increase visibility into donation and volunteer opportunities, as well as expose critical needs during a disaster so the public can be more informed in their giving. For those looking for ways to support relief efforts, Notes from the Ground will include a list of specific needs posted by vetted nonprofits responding to a disaster so that the public can make donations based on these exact requests.

“By telling the stories directly from the ground and tying them to the very specific need from a relief organization, this tool enables the community to make an emotional connection and actually see their donations being put to good use,” said Thode. “From a donor perspective, they are very interested in transparency and they want to know how their resources are being used. Notes from The Ground helps tell that story.”

The Microsoft Disaster Response program is aimed at improving response capabilities during times of disaster and we see Notes from the Ground as an exciting tool to support these efforts. We look forward to sharing more about this tool as Aidmatrix and others begin to implement it into their relief work.