Open Source Resources for major Disaster & Emergency Management Situations

Peter GroenAs everyone knows by now, the superstorm known as 'Hurricane Sandy' has caused considerable devastation across the East Coast of the United States and all the way up to the Great Lakes region. The effects of the storm will continue to be felt for days and weeks as major portions of the East Coast are without electricity and flooding is expected to continue for days.

Under these circumstances, it seemed appropriate to put together a listing of open source applications that have been successfully used in emergencies and disaster recovery all over the world. In times of man-made crises or natural disasters, there is a range of organizations, websites, open source tools, mobile apps, and more that might be of use to first responders and citizens in general. Check out some of the following resources:

  • BioSense Project – This is a CDC program and collaborative project aimed at providing public health officials with the data, information and tools they need to better prepare for and coordinate responses to safeguard and improve the health of the American people.
  • Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (CDERA) - This is a regional inter-governmental disaster management organization which serves the Caribbean community. 
  • CDC Widgets & Gadgets - The Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) now provides a wide range of free public domain software widgets & gadgets for use on your computer systems or websites focused on public health & safety
  • Countermeasure Tracking System (CTS) - Developed and maintained by the CDC for federal, state, and local public health agencies to track and manage countermeasure inventories and usage during all-hazards events.
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) - Provides free software, tools, mobile apps, and support services to U.S. citizens and first responders related to improving our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from major man-made or natural disasters
  • FrontlineSMS - An award-winning free and open source software product that can turn a laptop or mobile phone into a central communications hub. Proven to be very useful in emergency management or humanitarian crisis situations.
  • Global Disaster Information Network (GDIN) - An international organization focused on providing reliable information about disasters, both manmade and natural. They also provide information to disaster response and relief organizations on ways of helping the survivors of different disasters, as well as guidance on preventing or responding to future disasters.
  • Health Alert Network (HAN) - The CDC Health Alert Network (HAN) provides Health Alerts, Health Advisories, Updates, and Info Service Messages to State and Local Health Officers, Public Information Officers, Epidemiologists, HAN Coordinators, and health care provider organizations across the U.S.
  • HHS Office of Preparedness & Medical Emergency Response - The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Office of Preparedness & Emergency Operations (OPEO) is responsible for developing operational plans, studies, products, training, information, and tools to ensure the preparedness of the Federal Government and the public to respond to and recover from domestic and international public health and medical threats and emergencies.
  • InSTEDD - Innovative Support to Emergencies, Diseases, and Disasters (InSTEDD) is a non-profit collaborative organization focused on the design and use of open source technology tools to help partners enhance collaboration and improve information flow to better deliver critical services to vulnerable populations during man-made crises or natural disasters.
  • Integrated Public Alert & Warning System (IPAWS) OPEN - This Open Platform for Emergency Networks (OPEN) is a collaborative initiative of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
  • National EMS Information System (NEMSIS) - A national effort to standardize the data collected by Emergency Management Service (EMS) agencies. Over time it is expected that NEMSIS will become the national repository that will be used to store EMS data from every state in the nation.
  • Open ISES - This software development project and associated community are dedicated to creating free & open source software, tools and instructional materials for the Emergency Services Community, Civilian Emergency Response Teams, and others.
  • Ready.Gov - is a U.S. government website and information portal designed to educate and empower Americans to prepare for and respond to emergencies including natural and man-made disasters.
  • Real-time Outbreak & Disease Surveillance (RODS) - A free software package for public health biosurveillance used to collect and analyze disease surveillance data in real time. It is funded by the CDC and the National Library of Medicine (NLM).
  • Sahana Foundation Projects - A free and open source Disaster Management system addressing the common coordination problems during a disaster from finding missing people, managing aid, managing volunteers, tracking camps effectively between government agencies, non-government organizations (NGO), and the victims themselves.
  • Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE) - SOPHE and the National Environmental Health Promotion Network (NEHPN) are dedicated to promoting resources in the fields of environmental health and emergency preparedness.
  • TriSano - A highly configurable and comprehensive public health data application allowing local, state, federal, and international agencies to identify, investigate and mitigate communicable and chronic diseases, environmental hazards, and bioterrorism events.
  • Ushahidi  - A non-profit tech organization & project specializing in developing free & open source software for information collection, visualization and interactive mapping data related to man-made crises and natural disasters.
  • WebEMS  - An open source web-based suite of tools used to facilitate emergency medical services (EMS). It supports the entire Ambulance Services pipeline with modules that include dispatch, crew scheduling, mobile field data collection, billing, administration, and reporting.
  • Wireless Information System for Emergency Responders (WISER) - A free system provided by NLM designed to assist first responders in hazardous material incidents, providing a wide range of information on hazardous substances, human health information, and containment & suppression advice.

Please let us know about other Disaster & Emergency Management resources you would like to recommend to others. We will add them to the Open Health News (OHNews) Resource Database.

Update: This article was updated on 3/24/2016. We added a photo of Peter Groen, changed the formatting, and expanded the tags section.