Following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM) partnered with SPS to help prepare for the potential impact of a large coastal storm. This preparation included the development and delivery of in-person and online training programs and field guides for opening and operating emergency evacuation centers, as well as enhancing the capacity of its web-based disaster management tool, Sahana.
Sahana is a free and open source software application that manages common coordination functions during a disaster. These functions include managing aid, managing volunteers, finding missing people, and tracking information among government agencies, non-profits, and victims. SPS has been adapting this software application for OEM to provide basic functions for managing the NYC Coastal Storm Plan Emergency Sheltering System. SPS provided OEM with the current product solution on August 2nd, just in time for the start of the hurricane season, and, to date, the School has provided emergency sheltering training to over 25,000 city employees.
When it became clear that Hurricane Irene was likely to make landfall in the New York City region, the NYC OEM called upon the SPS team to support its deployment of Sahana. The core Sahana team, led by Washington Hernandez and including Chad Heuschober, Clayton Kramer, and Shirley Chan, worked around the clock from Tuesday, August 23rd through late Sunday, August 28th, deploying and adjusting the Sahana application as necessary during the various phases of implementation on site at the School’s West 31st Street offices. In addition, Andrew Boyarsky, SPS’s Project Director for the Coastal Storm Plan training initiative, was deployed to several evacuation centers in Queens and Brooklyn to help oversee its operation. Before Irene arrived, NYC OEM was able to open 81 evacuation centers throughout the city, many of which were located on CUNY campuses. Andrew chronicled his experience during his 30 hour shift on his blog: Stop Playing Games.
Many thanks and acknowledgements are also due to Brian Peterson and Jill Hyland, for their leadership, and to Paul Russo, Shawn Abraham, Cristina Finan, Pradeep Vijagiri, Z. Lobley, and Joe Vehling, for their support of this application’s deployment. SPS made a real difference during this time of city-wide crisis. We can be extremely proud of each other, our accomplishments, and the help we were able to provide.
Photo (from left to right): Shirley Chan, Washington Hernandez, Andrew Boyarsky, Clayton Kramer, Pradeep Vijagiri, and Chad Heuschober