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NetHope Disaster Response Training

August 27, 2019

The part of the world which I call home is a place in California that most people only pass through, or fly over, on their way between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Recently however, I had the good fortune that NetHope was conducting its Bay Area Disaster Response Training (DRT) right in my “back yard,” in San Luis Obispo County, CA.

The DRT is an approach to provide emergency responders with hands-on, practical experience deploying information and communications technology (ICT) services in a simulated emergency-response environment. I was able to attend a few days of the event as a facilitator/observer and got a better understanding of how NetHope builds the response capacity of the participants who make up their member and partner organizations, part of which involves Fulcrum Community for various components of their information management strategy.

Point-to-point network training, in a grassy field approaching 100°F

Point-to-point network training, in a grassy field approaching 100°F

Learning from disaster

In an effort to increase its capacity for responding to disasters around the globe, the NetHope DRT exercises provide an opportunity for select participants to train in creating and deploying ICT solutions to those who already are, or may one day be, in need. ICT is a term used to describe an effective combination of tools that enable people to use, collect, edit and share information – which is paramount in disaster or crisis situations – for those affected who are in need of food, shelter, water and medicine.

In attendance were organizations such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Facebook and Google – all NetHope partners – who sent skilled candidates from nearby Silicon Valley and other areas around the country. In addition, the nonprofit humanitarian response organization Team Rubicon, a NetHope member, sent participants – with staff from CiscoTacOps, emergency.lu, Ericsson Response, and Facebook in attendance as exercise trainers. The goal is for the trainees to learn from each other, build capacity and gain practical experience deploying ICT services in a simulated exercise as part of NetHope’s larger response strategy.

Fulcrum: an integral tool in disaster response operations

In the short amount of time since NetHope began using Fulcrum, our data collection tool has become a critical piece of their disaster response deployment workflow and training. Previously, this type of information was gathered by hand and later digitized or captured via disparate, inefficient methods. Imagine the amount of time being saved by moving from handwritten notes (requiring digitizing) or passing around spreadsheets via email… we’re talking about critical information that’s needed to restore basic needs for the physical well-being of affected persons!

In the case of NetHope Disaster Response deployments, Fulcrum is used for information management of these types tasks:

  • Assistance requests
  • Site assessment
  • Site planning
  • Installations and backlog
  • Inventory and logistics backlog
  • Task tracking and completion
  • Reports
  • Rework
  • Tracking organizations/contacts
Information Management training, outlined with sticky notes. Fulcrum app being reviewed, planning/testing forms used for the various tasks

Information Management training, outlined with sticky notes. Fulcrum app being reviewed, planning/testing forms used for the various tasks

Some of the key features in which I believe that Fulcrum presents an instrumental offering as part of an ICT solution:

  • Simple and intuitive for new users. Usability is critical in high-stress situations such as those experienced in a disaster response environment.
  • Quick and easy form building, user provisioning and role management. In a crisis, people don’t have time or patience for clunky form-building tools or challenges when adding new users.
  • Rock solid dependability, no matter the connectivity. We’ve built Fulcrum with an “offline first” mentality. Continue collecting your data if disconnected and once you get connected again, you’ll get your data synced up with the rest of the team.
  • Scalable. From hundreds of users to hundreds of thousands of records – Fulcrum is built to scale.
  • Extensible. Through our developer tools (REST API, Query API, webhooks, etc.) Fulcrum becomes highly extensible, with a variety of integration hooks.

Looking forward

Our team is proud that Fulcrum can help make a positive impact as a small part of NetHope’s larger effort in their work around the world, restoring communications in disaster-struck areas. We’re looking forward to our relationship growing over time and have committed to a Technology Solutions Exhibitor sponsorship at the NetHope Global Summit in San Juan, Puerto Rico this year – and are looking forward to attending. For me personally, it was an incredible experience to get to meet some of the NetHope leadership, team, members, partners and DRT participants.

I’m grateful that NetHope was kind enough to include me and feel lucky that it was held so close to my geography. I’m also proud that Spatial Networks has the heart to give back to organizations like NetHope, who are truly making a difference around there world – where it’s needed most.

'The Barn,' where classroom activities were held

‘The Barn,’ where classroom activities were held

Fulcrum is a data collection platform that enables organizations to reduce costs, access critical data in real time, and improve decision making at every level. With Fulcrum, you can create custom apps using our simple drag-and-drop builder to turn your paper documents into digital forms that your field teams can quickly complete on mobile devices. Fulcrum Community is a no-cost, short-term crowdsourced data collection solution for qualified humanitarian or volunteer disaster preparedness and recovery efforts. Click here to learn more or request an account.