Facebook introduces Disaster Maps in India for better response to disasters

Facebook Inc. rolled out Disaster Maps for India to help communities across the country recover and rebuild from natural disasters faster by sharing critical pieces of data sets with humanitarian agencies in a timely manner.

The new product was launched at the company’s first Disaster Response Summit in India along with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to improve disaster response and disaster management in India.

According to United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) data, India is the third-worst affected country by natural disasters like floods, earthquakes, landslides, cyclones and drought. Moreover, the response time during and after these crises is often slow and it takes significant time and resources to understand where help is needed most. Disaster Maps, powered by

Facebook’s technology and intensive research, will address this critical gap in data that government organizations face when responding to a crisis.

What are Disaster Maps?

Disaster Maps, which was introduced globally in June, uses aggregated, de-identified Facebook data to help organizations address the critical gap in the information they often face when responding to natural disasters. Facebook provides multiple types of maps during disaster response efforts, which include aggregated location information people have chosen to share with Facebook. This helps NGOs and relief agencies get a clearer picture of where affected people are located so they can determine where resources—like food, water and medical supplies—are needed.

Facebook researchers have built three kinds of maps:

Location density maps: These show where people are located before, during and after a disaster. We can compare this information to historical records, like population estimates based on satellite images. Comparing these data sets can help response organizations understand areas impacted by a natural disaster.

Movement maps: These illustrate patterns of movement between different neighbourhoods or cities over a period of several hours. By understanding these patterns, response organizations can better predict where resources will be needed, gain insight into patterns of evacuation, or predict where traffic will be most congested.

Safety Check: These maps are based on locations where our community uses Safety Check to notify their friends and family that they are safe during a disaster. We are using this de-identified data in aggregate to show where more or fewer people check in safe, which may help organizations understand where people are most vulnerable and where help is needed.
While globally Facebook has partnered with organizations like the Red Cross, in India, initially it will join hands with two organizations: the NDMA and SEEDS (Sustainable Environment and Ecological Development Society) and will share data about Facebook users with them in times of disasters. Over time, they will add more such partners.

Facebook has 2 billion-plus users globally and according to a media report, its users in India have crossed the 240 million mark, making it the largest audience country for the social media company.

Facebook has developed a number of crisis response tools. It activated the Safety Check feature in 2014 and launched Community Help in 2015, which allows the Facebook community to find and give help such as food, shelter and transportation.

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Calamities displace 23 lakh every year in India

India ranks top among world’s most disaster-prone countries with rising number of homeless people at an average annual displacement of 2.3 million, uprooted due to calamities such as floods, cyclone or earthquakes.

A UN study, to be released on the International Day for Disaster Reduction on Friday, forecast a continued rise in homelessness. The paper says eight of the top ten most disaster-prone countries are in South and South-east Asia, India being on the top, followed by China which has an annual average displacement at 1.3 million, a million people less affected than India.

The estimation of displaced people in India may be on the lower side considering that in the recent Bihar floods alone, more than 1.75 crores (about 17.5 million) people were affected and 8.55 lakh were evacuated. The state disaster mitigation authorities ran 1,358 relief camps with 4.22 lakh inmates taking shelter in them. Floods had affected at least half a dozen other states this year. Inadequate preparedness and failure to evacuate in time led to over 500 people dead in Bihar itself.

“Most of this displacement is being driven by flooding which is on the increase in a warming world where population growth in hazard-prone parts of the globe has increased exposure,” observed the study, jointly conducted by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre of the Norwegian Refugee Council and the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).

About UNISDR:

The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), created in December 1999, is the successor to the secretariat of the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction.

It was established to ensure the implementation of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.

It is part of the United Nations Secretariat and its functions span the social, economic, environmental as well as humanitarian fields.

UNISDR supports the implementation, follow-up and review of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction adopted by the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction on 18 March 2015 in Sendai, Japan.
UNISDR’s vision is anchored on the four priorities for action set out in the Sendai Framework:

  • Understanding disaster risk.
  • Strengthening disaster risk governance to manage disaster risk.
  • Investing in disaster risk reduction for resilience.
  • Enhancing disaster preparedness for effective response and to “Build
  • Back Better” in recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction.
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First BIMSTEC Disaster Management Exercise

The Exercise will be conducted by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) as the lead agency from October 10-13, 2017 in Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR). At the 17th BIMSTEC Senior Officials Meeting held in Kathmandu, Nepal on February 7, 2017, it was decided that India would organize the first annual Disaster Management Exercise for the region.

The BIMSTEC DMEx-2017 is being conducted in two phases in Delhi and NCR. The main exercise will comprise of Table Top Exercise (TTX), Field Training Exercise (FTX) and After Action Review (AAR) which is scheduled for October 10-13, 2017. Earlier, the first phase comprising a Preparatory Meeting and field visit of the site selected for FTX during the main exercise was held in Delhi NCR on August 8-9, 2017.

Delegates from all seven nations of the ‘Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation’ (BIMSTEC) grouping, – namely Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand, representatives from Embassies/High Commissions of BIMSTEC nations in Delhi, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), and Senior Officers from the Nodal Ministries will participate in the event.

This Exercise will be a platform for sharing Best Practices on all aspects of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), strengthening regional response and coordination for Disaster Management among the BIMSTEC member countries. The main focus of the BIMSTEC DMEx-2017 will be on testing the region’s preparedness and resilience towards effective activation of inter-Governmental interaction/dialogue/agreements for immediate deployment of regional resources for disaster response. It will help create synergy and synchronize efforts to institutionalize regional cooperation among the member countries. The exercise will help strengthen the effective utilization of the Search & Rescue Teams for Disaster Relief & Emergency Response, including Emergency Rapid Assessment Teams and Management of mass casualties especially in situations involving the breakdown of infrastructure and communication.

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Multi-Agency Exercise ‘Pralay Sahayam’

A multi-agency exercise was conducted on the banks of Hussain Sagar Lake as the final event of ‘Pralay Sahayam’ in Hyderabad. The event demonstrated efforts of all central and state agencies, National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) and the Armed Forces towards jointly tackling an urban flooding scenario in Hyderabad.

The Minister of State for Defence Dr Subhash Bhamre who was the Chief Guest on the occasion congratulated the organising committee for the successful conduct of the exercise. The Deputy Chief Minister of Telangana Shri Mohammad Mehmood Ali was the Guest of Honour.

For the purpose of the exercise, Hussain Sagar Lake was transformed into urban colonies partly submerged under water, after heavy-showers in the city. A large number of dummy structures depicting multi-storied buildings and houses with stranded people, power stations, educational institutes etc., were erected in the lake in an inundated condition.

The hapless stranded occupants of these dwellings were rescued in joint operations carried out by the State Government agencies, Police, State Fire & Emergency Services, NDRF, CISF and the Armed Forces. The Indian Air Force and the Army Aviation employed the Mi-17 helicopters, Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) and Chetak Helicopter for aerial evacuation, demonstrating special skills in hovering and winching.

The exercise brought out the role and function of the State Emergency Operations in coordinating conduct of the joint operations. Further, the significance of early warning systems of agencies like Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) and Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) was emphasized.

The exercise culminated with a static display which demonstrated the efficient and functional layout of a relief and rehabilitation camp for the displaced persons. The camp catered for emergency medical assistance and other essential services for the needy. Indian vendors showcased state-of-the-art disaster management equipment and related wares. NGOs such as Plan India, Care India, Sphere India, etc., also participated, bringing out their capabilities, organization and operational strategies.

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India Quake

“India Quake” is a mobile app launched recently on the occasion of Foundation Day of Ministry of Earth Sciences.

About India Quake:

To overcome the delay in dissemination of the information during earthquakes, India Quake Mobile App has been developed by the National Centre for Seismology (NCS) for automatic dissemination of earthquake parameter (location, time and magnitude) after the occurrence of earthquakes.
The App will make information dissemination faster with no restrictions on the number of recipients. Any citizen can download this App and get the real time earthquake location information on his/her mobile.
Other than scientific and administrative benefits of the App, it will help in reducing panic amongst people during an earthquake. For example, if an earthquake occurs in Hindukush region, Afghanistan and is strongly felt in Delhi, then people in Delhi will know in less than 2 minutes that the earthquake has actually occurred in Afghanistan and not in Delhi.

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