Just 2 days after the earthquake of January 12, 2010 hit Haiti, the first ever EIR (Emergency Information Service) was set up and in place to help. The goal was to provide SMS messaging on cell phones to the disaster-torn country. Working with InSTEDD, the Haitians were able to sign up for a free subscription to the Digicel and Comcel networks to receive our free Creole-language alerts.
Cell Phones in Haiti are key to emergency services
Text messaging has saved countless lives in Haiti so far. One man trapped for 5 days in a collapsed building text messaged for help. The EIR was able to track him through GPS and saved his life. EIR has also been able to broadcast emergency treatment center information to the people.
Entrepreneurs have capitalized by offering cell phone charging stations for the disaster victims. One man was charging 40 gourdes (75 cents) for a 15 minute charge for the phone. The line is long even though a Digicel location is offering free charging just down the street from the man.
Haiti’s cell phone networks were mostly restored within one day of the earthquake. This is amazing to me, but thank goodness. SMS networks were the most robust of the systems, providing Port-au-Prince’s emergency services a main point of contact for the government.
Even though SMS subscribers are growing every day, the radio remains the most efficient source of information. Internews, a media development organization, has been broadcasting a daily Creole-language program called “Nouvelles-Utiles” (News You Can Use) on 12 radio stations since January 21.
CDAC (Communications with Disaster Affected Communities ) has been working to improve communications with the disaster survivors. This is an inter-agency working group comprising Thomson Reuters Foundation, Internews, BBC World Service Trust, the Red Cross, Save the Children, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and others.
The whole world is rallying around the disaster survivors. BRAVO! But why does it take a disaster to bring us together? Shouldn’t we be helping our fellow humans anyway? What’s your take?