DC Tech Responds to Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan with CrisisCamp Philippines

November 15, 2013

2:01 pm

A week after Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan wrought the landscape of Tacloban, in the Philippines, crews continue to find bodies underneath destroyed homes and buildings that once populated the urbanized, seaside city. Once home to approximately 220,000 people, the city has suffered (to date) over 12,000 injured people, 3,600 deaths, and over 1,000 missing. Additionally, while Tacloban certainly received the bulk of Yolanda’s destructive force, it’s reported that about 11 million people were affected by the storm, leaving 600,000 without homes.

While several aid and relief efforts have been spearheaded by various charities and NGOs in response to the disaster, those affected by Haiyan have yet to receive significant aid from the government or otherwise. Food, clean water, medical treatment, and shelter are still working their way to the worst-hit areas of the Philippines; specifically, very little aid has reached the Tacloban region, where the city’s demolished infrastructure has made access and transport difficult for aid/relief crews.

Typhoon Haiyan’s/Yolanda’s Impact, Before and After (Credit: Digital Globe/NBC News)

In response to the devastation left by the typhoon, members of the DC tech community are coming together this Saturday for CrisisCamp Philippines, bringing together programmers, developers, and basically anyone who wants to help brainstorm and develop technology solutions to help in the relief effort.

Organized by Kathleen Danielson, with the OpenStreetMap US Foundation, and Robert Banick, at the American Red Cross, CrisisCamp Philippines will essentially serve as a hackathon devoted to developing software tools to aid in the relief efforts. “Tomorrow will be more of a hack day and will really depend on what skill sets that people can bring; the day’s ideas will be shaped by whoever shows up,” says Danielson. One working idea involves looking at the post-Yolanda/Haiyan imagery of the affected areas and developing a map that will help relief crews determine 1) which areas require the greatest priority (based on the amount of infrastructure damage, and therefore the number of affected people) and 2) the best possible routes to use in transporting aid. The event aims to produce the kinds of technology solutions that were developed in response to the Haiti earthquake in 2010.

Residents salvaging supplies from destroyed homes. (Credit: Erik de Castro/Reuters)

I myself am Filipino, and while none of my relatives in the Philippines were directly affected by the typhoon, I have several friends here, in the US, whose families in the Philippines have suffered terrible losses. In my short time as a reporter and observer of the DC tech community, I’ve already encountered many ways through which this community has cemented its reputation for helpfulness, but none more so than this response to a natural disaster.

If you want to contribute your skills to this initiative or want to support in some other way, join us tomorrow at 1776 for CrisisCamp Philippines.

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Ronald Barba was the previous managing editor of Tech.Co. His primary story interests include industry trends, consumer-facing apps/products, the startup lifestyle, business ethics, diversity in tech, and what-is-this-bullsh*t things. Aside from writing about startups and entrepreneurship, Ronald is interested in 'Doctor Who', Murakami, 'The Mindy Project', and fried chicken. He is currently based in New York because he mistakenly studied philosophy in college and is now a "writer". Tweet @RonaldPBarba.

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