Tag Archives: OEM

OEM Call for Volunteers for Hurricane Sandy

The message below is posted on behalf of Associate Dean Brian A. Peterson:

Dear Colleagues:

As you may know, Hurricane Sandy is making its way towards our area, and once again, the SPS team is working closely with the New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM) as they prepare our City for this oncoming storm. This is an enormous undertaking, and OEM is currently in need of two volunteers to perform data entry for the City’s resource management system from 8pm tonight through 8am tomorrow morning at the OEM Office in Brooklyn.

If you are available and interested in this opportunity to help our City, please let me know asap, by contacting me via my cell at 646-468-6153.

You may also be of help by forwarding this message to your friends and colleagues.

Many thanks for your consideration,


Brian A. Peterson
Associate Dean for Administration and Finance
CUNY School of Professional Studies

Hurricane Irene: SPS Supports NYC’s Coastal Storm Plan

evacuationcenterFollowing 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

Recruiting Volunteers for Hurricane Irene in NYC

From Associate Dean Brian Peterson: Fellow New Yorkers…if you are holding out in the City during hurricane Irene and are able to mobilize, The City of New York is recruiting volunteers to help staff hurricane evacuation centers and shelters as well as 311. If interested, contact Whitney Hampton at whampton@cityhall.nyc.gov or 347-776-1513.

SPS Participates in Random Hacks of Kindness

The CUNY School of Professional Studies (SPS) is delighted to announce that its Sahana Agasti Team was honored this past weekend at the New York City arena of Random Hacks of Kindness: Hacking for Humanity (RHoK), an international weekend-long event focused on producing technological solutions to issues in the humanitarian and crisis management professions. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon honored RHoK’s mission and its organizers at the event’s opening reception on Friday, December 3rd at the United Nations.

According to its Web site, RHoK, the brainchild of a dedicated team from Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, NASA, and The World Bank, “brings software engineers together with disaster risk management experts to identify critical global challenges, and develop software to respond to them. A RHoK Hackathon event brings together the best and the brightest hackers from around the world, who volunteer their time to solve real-world problems.” At over 20 international locations, developers, designers, crisis managers, academics, and others worked together to find answers to the nearly 80 problems posed by the worldwide community.

Several members of the CUNY SPS Sahana team represented their work on the Sahana open source project and competed with other teams to make a difference. Charles Wisniewski, Ilya Gulko, Usman Akeju, Chad Heuschober, and Darlene McCullough worked with other members of the Sahana community, including President and CEO Mark Prutsalis, to make Sahana a more modular and scalable application suitable for the management of emergencies on the scale of New York City and beyond.  At the event’s closing ceremonies, the SPS Sahana Team was honored with a special award recognizing that their work optimizing the Sahana database and building a module manager and query reflector was not only technically challenging, but vitally important to the field of crisis management. To learn more about the Sahana Agasti Project please visit their unofficial blog: http://blog.agasti.org/.

SPS Sahana Agasti Team

From left to right: Usman Akeju, Charles Wisniewski, Darlene McCullough, and Chad Heuschober

SPS Bolsters Online Training Curriculum for Emergency Responders

With 3,000 City managers to train for a variety of secondary emergency responder roles, SPS has expanded the online training curricula for the NYC Office of Emergency Management. Some of these new cutting edge online courses replace those in the classroom, providing comprehensive and highly interactive online courses for those assigned as Evacuation Center and Hurricane Shelter Managers. The courses cover everything from setting up the facility and assigning staff to dealing with difficult situations in emergency sheltering.

The new online courses also cover the Logistics Center, the City’s procurement arm during emergencies, and the Lead Team for the Family Assistance Center for mass casualty events. These courses use a backdrop of simulated emergency scenarios based on real life events. The courses bring the plans to life through the use of video and engaging graphic interactivies and guide learners through critical decision making.

(IS 187 in Brooklyn and the virtual IS 187 in Second Life)

SPS has employed a new state-of-the-art technology, using the virtual world platform of Second Life, to develop a 3D learning environment for training Hurricane Shelter Managers. Based on an actual middle school designed as an emergency shelter, learners guide their avatar through the virtual facility, selecting rooms for shelter areas, moving emergency supplies into place, assigning and directing staff and managing the facility through the storm. This 3D learning environment allows for multiple players and can be repurposed for other emergency simulations. Initial feedback from test users has been highly positive and use of this training medium is being explored for further possibilities.

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