cloud technologies

“When a disaster occurs, you enter to a new reality” says Microsoft Emergency Services director Lewis Curtis. You cannot upload your system and apps back to where they were. Disasters change everything permanently. But “Cloud” like information technologies make it possible to quickly respond extraordinary situations, coordinate this response with the government and aid agencies, manage analysis of better understanding and screening the effects and the unfortunate results encountered. All the technologies and innovations that provide the companies the ability to quickly respond to the new opportunities and fast changing market conditions, they make cloud a part that is fundamental and essential for the responses given to extraordinary situations.

The usage of technology at relieving the pain that is suffered

When there is a disaster, most of the time the vital systems crash as well. The president and CEO of Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank in the state of Louisiana, USA, knows that very well. In August, 2016, the capital of Baton Rouge remained under water with a record rainfall per meter square. The floodwater reached almost 1,5 meter, and it damaged millions of pound food stock of the food bank together with their computer systems, and also the system that they use to check the food stock status, make sure if hungry ones received their food and follow who was given food.

Manning tells that they moved the office and storehouse administration apps to cloud in a short time in order to keep the apps always working and the systems never crash. Thanks to cloud based apps, the food bank will be able to operate anywhere, anytime.

A few months before the flood disaster in Louisiana, the west sides of Ecuador were struck by an earthquake with 7.8 magnitude. Ecuador government needed a basic software application to register the effected people and make sure that the 2300 families remained homeless are provided with shelter, food and medical equipment.

The neighbor country Colombia had an application like this. But, how would they get it to Ecuador in a very short time and get it work? At the end, they completed the reinstallation with Azure in a week. The Red Cross in Ecuador was using cloud to manage the volunteers and blood bank data across the country.

Every disaster in different conditions asks for unpredictable new features from applications in the means of scale and load.

On 22nd of March, 2014, in Oso, a little city in northwest of Washington, USA, many homes were effected by the landslide caused by heavy rains, and 43 people lost their lives. Right after the incident, around 200 public and aid organization including Red Cross, Federal Disaster House, Washington State National Forces, USA Marines search and rescue teams and thousands of press representatives rushed to the area.

With the sudden extreme load put on the local government’s coordination systems, Microsoft Emergency Services moved Oso’s records to cloud with the help of Azure product team. With its unlimited capacity, cloud provided everyone who needed access to records to call and search for what they need in a fast and efficient way. By also using Office 365, in a short while, they set up an Incident Response Command and Collaboration System that gets the response commanders connect to emergency contact officers of different organization.

A year later, a far and mountainy country, Nepal was struck by a very strong earthquake that destroyed 600.000 buildings and killed thousands which left the country with a very big reconstruction duty. After the earthquake, United Nations Development Program (UNDP) project manager Dan Strode said “It is a very big thing to recover after a big disaster. There is a lot to do, a lot of people to be aided, but the time and the resources are never enough.”

Artificial ıntelligence and cloud for early warning

We can use modern technology to respond disasters, but can we use this technology to predict, even prevent natural disasters one day?

Maybe! a statistics algorithm which is known as M8, is trying to predict the big earthquakes by the look of the small quakes. At some studies that are done on different parts of the world to predict potential earthquakes and their magnitudes, neural network (a method that simulates human brain activities) is applied. (Here, you can see one each example from Chile to India)

In Texas, USA, a project called “SHEM” (Streamflow hydrology estimate using machine) is carried out which is a Cortana Intelligence Suite experiment that creates a predictive model that can act as a proxy streamflow data when a stream gauge fails. And due to the machine learning capabilities, it can even make estimates of stream levels where there is no actual stream gauge present.

Cloud can also be a new hope for weather forecast problem that has been going on for centuries. A prototype, by using a couple of hundred processors that work on cloud, uploads weather data worth a century received from weather stations all  around the world and does analyses. This study hopes to define long term tendencies by analyzing this bulky data mass and answers the most problematic “if” situations regarding weather forecast.

Trusted platform regarding scale, resistance and fast response

Apart from the extraordinary human nature of these stories, what is so accurate and impressive about the usage of technology saving extraordinary situations?

Everything (resistance, time to be put on market and readiness) that aid organizations and governments see beneficial on cloud, machine learning and other improving technologies are the main features required for our rapidly changing business world.

DO you want to spread your news?

For a good example, you can look at the page of Alberta government, Canada. The government created a map application that shows the fires, working together with ESRI, partner of Microsoft and geographical information system (GIS), to inform people about the big fires happened in 2016.


You want to have new abilities but not increase your IT expenses?

The lessons that are learnt from the experiences of Baton Rouge and government of Nepal apply to public and private sector establishments as well. If you have to scale all of a sudden, use cloud as they did in Oso.

New technologies like cloud both proved themselves in many devastating disasters, and manage innovations that make sure we are safer, even long after the crisis is over.