Use of EDXL protocol suite in Sahana implementations

Sahana at the Haiti Earthquake
Sahana at the Haiti Earthquake

Sahana is considered to be the premier Disaster Management System available in the world today. It jump-started the Humanitarian Free and Open Source Software (HFOSS) movement, and has been implemented in various disaster situations around the world.

The Emergencey Data eXchange Language (EDXL) protocol suite is a set of protocols defined by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) for communication between various organizations responding to a disaster/emergency situation. As a standard, EDXL allows disaster management software and personnel affiliated with different protocols to communicate with each other on a common platform. Therefore it is essential for the usability of any international disaster management system be compliant with EDXL, and Sahana is no exception.

I have taken the time to document some instances which prove Sahana’s extensive compliance with the EDXL protocol suite.

In 2010, a magnitude 7 earthquake struck the Caribbean nation of Haiti, in the city of Port-au-Prince. Tens of thousands of civilians were killed instantly, while thousands more were trapped beneath rubble, as well as leaving millions of civilians homeless.

During the Sahana Software Foundation’s response to the Haiti Earthquake[6], it deployed the Sahana Haiti 2010 Earthquake Disaster Response Portal – a live and active website hosted at http://haiti.sahanafoundation.org, which provided the following features for the use of disaster responders:

•Organization Registry: This was considered as Phase 1 of the implementation of Sahana. The Organization Registry was used to track the information and activities of the organizations involved in the disaster relief effort, as well as what assets and resources they had available to them. This module made use of the RM and CAP protocols from the EDXL protocol suite.

• Food Cluster Food Request Portal : Designed in order to collaborate with the World Food Program (WFP)’s efforts to distribute food properly among the victims of the disaster. It was used to note the availability of food resources as well as the distribution of these resources. This module made use of the RM protocol of the EDXL protocol suite. An SMS-based notification tool developed for this module is planned to be used as a component of the World Food Programme’s future systems.

• Hospital Management System (HMS) : This module was used to track the details of the hospitals available for the disaster relief efforts in Haiti, as well as other medical institutions. The EDXL-HAVE (Hospital AVailability Exchange) protocol was utilized to transmit data about hospitals in operations related to this module. Various instances of the Hospital Management System were able to transmit data between one another using HAVE successfully.

• Persons Registry : This is one of the main components of Sahana (Vesuvius) which was also implemented to search for missing victims of the Haiti Earthquake. This module was used to register the victims of the Earthquake who were missing and to track them via a collaborative method, by providing access to the system online. In order to store and transmit people data, this system made use of the CAP protocol from the EDXL Suite.

• Disaster Victim Identification Registry (DVI) : This registry was used as a module in the Haiti Disaster relief effort to identify and store the details of verified victims of the disaster. CAP (Common Access Protocol) of the EDXL protocol suite was used in this module.

• Shelter Registry : EDXL-RM was used in this module along with CAP to enable the reporting of the status of shelters available for victims of the Haiti Earthquake. By having an extensive methodology available to track the shelters available, the disaster relief workers were able to assign displaced victims to shelters effectively.

Out of the EDXL family, EDXL-HAVE was extensively used along with Person Finder Interchange Format (PFIF). EDXL-HAVE proved effective in the Hospital Management System and the Disaster Victim Identification Registry. This proved to be the ideal protocol needed to handle the immense amounts of data that needed to be exchanged in order to coordinate the Hospital Management effort.

Sources:

  • Prustalis, M., Bodduluri, P., de Silva, C., Bitner, D., Boon, F., König, D., Treadgold, G. (2010), The Sahana Software Foundation response to the 2010 Haiti Earthquake: A New Standard for Free and Open Source Disaster Data Management Systems
  • Rencoret, N., Stoddard, A., Haver, K., Taylor, G., Harvery, P. (2010), Haiti Earthquake Response – Context Analysis
  • Sahana Software Foundation official web page – http://www.sahanafoundation.org

Sahana Agasti – Vesuvius

I thought of writing up a blog post related to my ongoing Google Summer of Code project, which is to re-implement the translation structure in Sahana Agasti’s Vesuvius release.

Sahana, as you may or may not know, is one of the most prominent HFOSS (Humanitarian FOSS) projects in the world, and is aimed primarily at disaster management. It was developed as a response to the December Tsunami in 2004 which devastated South Asian countries such as Sri Lanka, where Sahana originated. Sahana was brought forward at the time as an effort to co-ordinate the search for missing persons, manage shelters and the distribution of relief efforts.

Due to its robust structure and easy-to-deploy nature, Sahana has been deployed around the world as the primary disaster management system for most situations. The floods in Pakistan and India were mitigated with the aid of Sahana. The City of New York maintains its own installation of Sahana as a measure to manage disasters that could occur. Recently, Sahana was deployed in response to the tsunami in Japan as well.

Sahana is mainly comprised of 2 main projects: Eden and Agasti. Eden is written in Python as a desktop application that can help with co-ordinating the disaster relief effort from a centralized management point. Agasti is written in PHP and focuses on providing a more widespread relief effort through providing interconnection between a large number of disaster relief centers.

Agasti is in turn, made up of 2 parts: Mayon and Vesuvius. While Mayon focuses on statistical analysis and predictions, Vesuvius focuses primarily on finding missing persons. And it is Vesuvius that I’m doing my project on.

Vesuvius has a simple yet efficient structure which helps to set up a disaster event and co-ordinate efforts between a large number of triage centers over a large area very quickly. The most interesting thing about Vesuvius is that it can manage an advanced Access Control List that can include a large number of different types of users from Researchers to Administrators, each with their own set of privileges on-site.

The process of reporting a missing person on Vesuvius is pretty straightforward and self-explanatory. This design would help people with little experience in using Vesuvius.

My project focuses on making Vesuvius more easily translatable, so that it can be adapted for different disaster situations in different locales quickly and effectively. More on that later.