Introduction: The U.S. military connected with Typhoon Haiyan responders on APAN.
On November 8, 2013, the Republic of the Philippines was hit by Typhoon Haiyan (known in the Philippines as Typhoon Yolanda), the strongest storm to hit landfall in recorded history. Following the disaster, approximately 11 million people were left without homes, clean water, food and medicine. The U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) was able to support disaster response efforts with the help of an APAN community for collaboration between the U.S. military, multiple foreign governments, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).
Challenges: Information needed to be shared with the Philippine government, foreign militaries and nongovernmental organizations participating in the response effort.
Within hours of the storm reaching land, multiple disaster relief efforts were deployed. U.S. military support needed to be coordinated in concert with multiple countries, organizations, and individuals. Traditional information silos created a challenge for responders who did not have access to the same information.
Solutions: The U.S. Pacific Command launched the Typhoon Haiyan Response Group on APAN to provide organizations and militaries of multiple countries a centralized location to share information, increase situational awareness, and decrease response time.
Finding answers to the collection of questions generated after Typhoon Haiyan became a concern for everyone supporting the Philippine recovery. A request for information (RFI) or assistance (RFA) would normally require numerous emails and phone calls, but with a single post to an APAN forum, a request could reach the same list of people with one posting. Supplying answers to questions on the forums allowed other users with similar questions to see the information later, greatly reducing duplicated efforts.
Every day, responding militaries, humanitarian organizations, and universities from multiple countries produced numerous situation reports on the disaster response activities. Having a common community allowed users to host, announce, and keep these reports available in a single location which created maximized situational awareness and decreased duplication of efforts.
Due to the extensive amount of information generated, having different methods available to filter and display information was imperative to enabling responders to quickly find relevant information. Tags were used to sort and categorize content by a specific focus area or topic. Information could also be focused and displayed on maps allowing responders to convey a great deal of information quickly. The Typhoon Haiyan group featured a map which allowed users to see a graphical, up-to-date representation of the damaged areas including the level of severity. Maps enabled responders to prioritize tasks quickly based on location.