Interactive web and mobile app for disasters

By Kathmandu University

30 September 2015
The system was used to collect information in the field for use in the redevelopment of earthquake-affected places

Project at a glance

Disaster reporting in Nepal is still paper based, which is time consuming and information is often outdated before it can be disseminated. A digital system is needed to make planning easier for those working in disaster management. The interactive web and mobile app for disasters is designed for use in reporting a disaster incident, its impact, and needs, and for tracking resources and volunteers used in responding to the disaster. The system uses GIS, mobile phones, and crowdsourcing to collect and disseminate information during disasters and emergency response. When an emergency situation occurs, authorized personnel can quickly and easily generate ‘geofencing’ alerts, which are instantly sent to every subscriber’s smart phone. Disaster response teams (national and international relief agencies, fire fighters, police, and medical personnel) are expected to use the system to manage their response in regions impacted by disasters. Similarly, the system will be useful to general users in understanding the disaster situation and will support them in incident reporting. 

Key features 

The disaster reporting app consists of:

  • Interactive web map
  • Two mobile applications (i.e., a rapid visual assessment app and a detailed building damage assessment app)
  • Resource tracking (i.e., of volunteers and ambulances)

How does it work? 

Incident Reporting

The two mobile apps are designed to collect different information from the field. 

The rapid visual assessment app can be used by local communities and first responders to collect situation information about the disaster hit area. The information is collected in three steps: First, the screen user chooses an incident location and type (e.g., landslide, earthquake, flood, fire). Second, the user reports the impact (e.g., number of deaths, injuries, number of people displaced or missing, and property loss). In the third step, the user reports the needs of the location (e.g., for tents, food, medicine, clean water, emergency vehicles). The user can collect information offline and upload the data when she/he has access to the Internet. Data is then posted on the web portal for visualization. The web visualization tool can be used by disaster relief and response organizations needing near real-time field information. 

Google Playstore page for “Disaster Reporting”.  Click Here to Install 

The detailed building assessment app can be used to collect information on buildings. With this app, the user selects the building on the offline map and presses the ‘report’ button. The user then takes a photo of the damaged building and enters information such as the owner’s details, type of damage, type of construction, occupancy type, current accommodation, income level, and income source. Other information, such as number of people dead, missing, injured, and displaced, can also be collected. After all the data is entered, the user presses the ‘save’ button and repeats the same process for the next building. Information is collected offline and uploaded when the user is online. The submitted information can be viewed on the web portal.

Interactive web map  for data visualization

Geofencing

The application also has other added features. For example, a user can specify their own area (geofence) in order to receive notification/alerts when a disaster occurs inside that geofence, even if the user is not inside the geofenced area. The users of android phones can receive alerts and notifications via their application notifications on their mobile phone screen based on the location of the device (which is their location if they are carrying it). Users can also specify the type of disaster they wants to be notified of.

Resource tracking

The core focus of the app is to aid hospitals in monitoring their ambulance services enable better response to emergency calls. The application is developed in both mobile and web to assist in tracking through the GPS in their mobile phones.

Cost implication for maintaining the application 

The system has already been deployed on the ICIMOD server and is currently being used by Kathmandu Metropolitan City, ICIMOD and Sano Paila (a local non-government organisation). Although initially designed for health service providers (to aid hospitals in assigned the nearest ambulance to a patient during an emergency), after the earthquake of 25 April, the system was used in different places to report different information. Several changes were made according to the need of the users. The system was used to collect information in the field for use in the redevelopment of earthquake-affected places. Potential partners and future users include government agencies working in disaster response and relief, the Nepal Red Cross, and I/NGOs. 

The system components are to be released under ‘open source’ licence, to make the app accessible to a wide audience, but a central organization will need to be responsible for its development and version management. The cost of this does not seem unattainable; in fact, in comparison to its usefulness, the cost is negligible. 

Upscaling the system in the future

In the future, we are looking to make the system more user friendly and customizable. We also want to explore other areas in which this technology can be used. The offline map routing and reporting feature of the app makes it unique and accessible to a wide range of users. The scaling up of the project would involve making it a framework that can be modified and used by anyone for a certain theme. 

Key Partners: 

The app is being used by

  • Kathmandu Metropolitan City
  • ICIMOD
  • Sano Paila
  • Potential key 
  • Government agencies
  • RedCross 
  • Other INGO