[Guest blog post by Heather Leson, an idea hacker and community builder. She is a CrisisCommons Community Working Group Co-lead, CrisisCommons Canada lead and member of the CrisisMappers Standby Task force. Haiti changed her life and inspired her to become a serial volunteer for digital response and an Ushahidi user for the past year. She blogs at textontechs.com and tweets on @heatherleson]

Johnny Diggz from Geeks without Bounds coined it the Crisis Voltron. Within an hour after the earthquake in New Zealand, christchurch.crowdmap.com was launched,  piratepad.net (collaboration tool), a blog post circulated, multiple tweets sent and a skype group chat formed. We connected volunteers from New Zealand, United States, Canada and around the world including people from various volunteer technical communities: CrisisCommons, Sahana Foundation, CrisisMappers, Standby Task Force, Ushahidi, Geeks without Bounds, Humanity Road, Tweak the Tweet and others. The Google Crisis Response () team contacted us after seeing a note on the CrisisMappers mailing list.

The earthquake struck New Zealand on February 22 at 12:51 (February 21 at 23:51 UTC). In the first hour after the quake, Chad Catacchio, co-lead of the CrisisCommons Community Working Group, began situational awareness, set up a  piratepad.net and launched Crowdmap.com instance. I joined the team shortly before 9pm ET, 6pm PT ( 14:00 NZDT). Migrating to skype, we divided ourselves into four simultaneous conversations:

  • Situational awareness
  • Crisis coordination and emergency response
  • Technical migration from Crowdmap to Ushahidi
  • Volunteer plan and management

Leadership from New Zealand included Gavin Treadgold, emergency manager, director of the Sahana Foundation and member of CrisisCommons. Gavin began connecting the group to official emergency management response. Robert Coup began leading the technical response and Tim McNamara joined to help with the volunteer plan.

The map was launched before the processes and people were in place. Patrick Meier and George Chamales (Konpa Group) provided their expertise. Plans and processes began to solidify. George recommended a migration to Ushahidi as soon as possible to handle the expected high load.  And, he referred to the essential Ushahidi resource to help guide (PDF) the team.  The CrisisCamp NZ team reached out to two other map projects and merged their efforts. Patrick, Cat Graham (Humanity Road) and myself coordinated to launch the Crisismappers Standby Task Force to assist with the 50 volunteers that Tim had massed. The SBTF was a perfect fit to handle the transition.  The migration to an Ushahidi instance – eq.org.nz happened within 6 hours of the earthquake. The SBTF officially completed their tasks yesterday.

Things that EQ.ORG.NZ received feedback on:

  • A diabetic thanked them for telling her where to get her insulin
  • Parents found out where they can buy food
  • Reporting some petrol stations only have diesel

The Sydney Morning Herald also noted that: “Another site, eq.org.nz, is taking pressure off emergency services by plotting official and user-generated information and reports on a Google Map.”

CrisisCamp NZ teams are working around the clock to keep up the response. Their tireless efforts have amassed 779 reports, 781 different locations, and 69, 143 unique visitors to the site. Partnerships exist with NZ media, universities, Google Person Finder and the Student Volunteer Army.  Tim is coordinating mapping/techncial situation rooms on IRC, Skype and, in person, including Optimal Usability.. As well, they continue to work very closely with the Ushahidi development team on a number of open ticket items.

Resources Needed, Status Report and Partners

http://wiki.crisiscommons.org/wiki/CrisisCampNZ
http://wiki.crisiscommons.org/wiki/Christchurch_NZ_Earthquake_21.02.2011
http://crisiscommons.org/blog/2011/02/23/update-from-crisiscamp-nz-volunteers
http://crisiscommons.org/blog/2011/02/24/crisiscampnz-brief-update

Also see: http://www.google.com/crisisresponse/christchurch_earthquake.html

CrisisCommons will hold an after action review once the response effort is complete. We wil make CrisisCamp NZ AAR announcement on the @crisiscamp twitter account and via our community mailing list.