Ebola Activation Update 18th October 2014

Firstly I want to convey our thanks to each and everyone of you.


Your input to the activation has meant that SBTF have the most comprehensive dataset of health care facilities in the affected countries.

The agencies that are using our information so far are UNMEER, World Health Organisation, NetHope, Medicine Sans Frontieres, British Red Cross, OSM to name a few and more requesting it by the day.
This has only been made possible by the time you have given to help the people suffering from this terrible illness.
We are looking at other phases of work to continue providing relevant, timely and accurate information.
For this to work we need to listen to your thoughts.
If you were part of this activation, we have compiled a short questionnaire and we would really appreciate if you would take time to complete it.
Your thoughts and ideas will contribute to making a success of the next activation.
Once again a huge thank you from us all.
Jus, Per, Joyce, Leesa, Hilary and all the wonderful team leads.

Ebola Activation Update 8th October 2014

SBTF are so fortunate to have amazing volunteers. Within 1 hour  of announcing the activation we had approx 60 members offer their time, as of now we have 131. Thank you each and every one. If you have not signed up yet here is the link to do so .

If you are not a SBTF member it is never too late to join us.  http://blog.standbytaskforce.com

We are conducting training and refreshers for all tasks.


A brief update on the task so far:

We have inputted numerous organisations Health Care Facilities information into one comprehensive document, we are now filling in all the missing information, geo locating, reverse geolocating (if you dont know what this is sign up and find out) then verifying information. This document is now one of the most comprehensive ones of its type.

We have activated our Empathy team. (Leesa, Donna and Christina).  If anyone feels affected by the task they can talk to the team in total confidence at anytime.

Please contact them either via email leesa@info4disasters.org, donna@info4disasters.org or christina@info4disasters.orgs or via our skype group.

Some feedback we received today via email from – World Health Organisation…….

” Thank you for the call today and, as we discussed your SBTF volunteers excellent work with Health Facilities data aggregation / QA-QC”  

Well done everyone your work is being noticed and used. Lets keep the momentum going.

We have some new team leads for this activation, thank you so much to the following people:


Peter Mosur

Lidia Cibor

Laura Morris

Heather Milton


Please feel free to ask any questions in any skype windows, one of us will be online to assist.

If anyone is interested in becoming one for this activation please email core@standbytaskforce.com.


Ebola Activation Phase 2.

Médecins Sans Frontières UK and The British Red Cross (BRC) have activated the Digital Humanitarian Network (DHN), with Standby Task Force (SBTF) as the coordinating body, to support information management during the ongoing Ebola crisis.

The request was made through the Digital Humanitarian Network to engage their member-organisations in this work. Several of these organisations have responded their willingness to support, among them ACAPS, MapAction and GISCorps. HOT OSM have been active for several months already, and will also support in this phase of the activation. SBTF are in direct contact with them having worked alongside them since mid August on phase 1. The work has been supported by the World Health Organisation and UNOCHA to name but a few.

In this deployment we are also working with trusted partners from various universities around the world.

Formal responders, NGOs and digital volunteers have joined up online during this crisis, sharing their ongoing tasks, information and collaborating to solve issues. Openness and data sharing have been boosted, and the development of the “Humanitarian Exchange Language” (a way of coding information to ease sharing and collaboration), have been put to good use. All information collected (that is not of a sensitive nature) will be published on UN OCHAs new platform for sharing of humanitarian data: https://data.hdx.rwlabs.org/

There are a significant number of people in the digital community engaged in the response to the Ebola outbreak. The SBTF are one of the few organizations working directly on data mining, and we have had many requests from responding agencies, researchers and NGOs wanting to use our data for wide-ranging and fundamental aspects of the response.

The task at hand is to collect relevant data on the health care facilities in the affected countries. This data has been accumulated by numerous responding agencies.

SBTF and partners are collating it all, removing the duplicates and finding missing data using a variety of sources. Thus ending up with the most comprehensive data source of all health facilities. Responders and agencies are then able to use this as a vital decision making tool.

One responder on the ground in Conakry tells us that she is able to cover the verification of about three clinics a day. Traffic jams and poor maps are serious obstacles for doing ground surveys. The information collected by the SBTF and DHN volunteers will be shared with the teams in place in the affected countries, to increase their understanding of the condition of the entire health system, and how it has been affected (either directly or indirectly) by the Ebola Outbreak.

Standby Task Force will continue to lead the coordination of this vital effort.  With several organisations involved, it is a big challenge to make this run as smoothly as possible. We are currently a volunteer network, with no financial support whatsoever. That said, we have just become incorporated, to make it possible to run the organisation on a long term basis. Donations would be gratefully received during this time and for the long-term, please contact Jus or Per to discuss.


Best regards


Jus & Per


Justine Mackinnon, President


Per Aarvik, Vice President


SBTF shortlisted for an award.

Today I received this email.

Dear Justine,

I am delighted to announce that Standby Task Force has successfully reached the shortlist for “Advocate of the Year” at the Women in IT Awards 2015!

Our select group of judges will be meeting at the beginning of January to decide the winners, which will be announced at a gala evening taking place on 29 January 2015 at The Ballroom, Grosvenor House, Park Lane. London

Frequented by royalty, celebrities and business leaders since its opening in 1929, the historic Grosvenor House continues its time-honoured tradition for exceptional elegance, service and facilities.

The hotel, which holds one of London’s most desirable addresses in the exclusive Mayfair district, will provide the perfect concoction of glamour, prestige and style as leading players from the IT industry gather to celebrate the outstanding innovation achieved by women in the UK and Ireland.

Through a series of end-user, vendor and special recognition awards, the black-tie ceremony will highlight the tremendous value that women can bring to and gain from IT roles, which remain heavily populated by men.

The judges of this award are:

Susan Cooklin, CIO, Network Rail

Kevin Griffin, CIO, GE Capital International

Michael Ibbitson, CIO, Gatwick Airport

Carrie Hartnell, associate director, TechUK

Gillian Arnold, chair, BCSWomen

Claire Vyvyan, GM and executive director, Dell UK

Emma McGuigan, MD, Accenture Technology UK/I

Kate Craig-Wood, MD, Memset Hosting

Mark Maddocks, CIO, Cambridge University Press

Paul Clarke, director of technology, Ocado

Richard Lloyd-Williams, former IT director, Net-A-Porter

Karen Price OBE, CEO, e-Skills UK.


The event is supported by the UK’s biggest professional bodies for the IT industry: BCS – The Chartered Institute for IT, trade association techUK, and employer body e-Skills UK.




Well done and congratulations to every member of Standby Task Force.

To be shortlisted is a huge achievement in itself. I am so very proud to be part of an amazing team of people who work together to help others, thank you.







The Dilemma of Response in a Time of Crisis

The Standby Task Force (SBTF) has developed clear guidelines for the kinds of disaster situations we activate for, whether natural or man-made.  The SBTF has provided crisis informatics and mapping support to “boots-on-the-ground” humanitarian relief organizations.  As highlighted by world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly currently taking place in New York City, the severity and frequency of both man-made and natural disasters have increased significantly over the past decade.

The year of 2014 has been a challenging year for both individuals and communities around the world.  The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has spread rapidly and is having multiple compounding effects on provision of medical services, health infrastructure, and commerce in a number of nations.  Forty-one ongoing-armed conflicts, primarily in the Middle East and Africa, create instability and insecurity in the lives of those caught in the crossfire.  Rape used as a weapon of war increases while the number of internally displaced persons and refugees continues to grow.  Prolonged floods in Pakistan complicate both World Food Programme and Pakistani government efforts to address an entrenched famine, affecting millions.  The impact of climate change has finally caught the attention of world leaders and made its way onto the Security Council agenda.

In consideration of this, Joyce Monsees, Volunteer Engagement Lead for the SBTF, recently guest lectured about SBTF for a university.  She received a timely question from one of the students that brings up an important issue facing organizations receiving a deployment request. Joyce’s response to this question strikes at the core of the difficult decision that responding organizations must make in determining when and where to commit their resources:

Q: As a global disaster information organization, have you ever had a situation where a few disasters were occurring in different places around the world and different disaster response agencies in each area has requested activation of your services?

A: This is a great question.  When the Standby Task Force is activated, we commit our efforts to that one disaster so we can produce the best possible results for those victims.  We regret having to turn down an organization’s request but spreading our resources will not be helpful to either set of victims, The Digital Humanitarian Network (DHN) will present that new activation request to another NGO (non-governmental organization) within our network.  Some of our members belong to these other NGOs too so if their other group takes the activation, those members may break from our current work, to assist them instead.  We are not a competitive network, but understand that those with certain skills may be more useful there.

Most of our activations have a set time period of 1-2 weeks so overlapping disasters is rare.  However, your question is timed well since the Ebola outbreak has changed that.  We are currently in a long-term activation to produce information reports for ground teams responding to the epidemic. There are multiple organizations helping since some have specific skill sets like technology support, statistics and translation.  It is also still hurricane season within an El Niño year so we may still have typhoons in the Pacific, unusual monsoonal rains in some areas and severe drought in others. With this long-term activation, we will need to strategize as a network to decide who assists if a new disaster occurs.

Ultimately, whenever a humanitarian organization provides relief services and support in a crisis setting, the single most important issue is the safety and security of the populations served.  The principle of “Do No Harm” or Primum Non Nocere is central to the work of the Standby Task Force in how we undertake our work.  Stay tuned for more updates soon.

SBTF Stands Down from Phase I of Ebola Activation

The Standby Task Force activated on August 20th, 2014 for a deployment with NetHope providing baseline data collection and communication coordination support to responding organizations on the ground and officially stepped down from engagement on Phase I of this activation as of Wednesday September 10th, 2014. Though the response to the Ebola outbreak is by no means over, the needs of our partners on the ground have evolved. We are currently preparing for Phase II of this deployment and will provide an update to our membership on Wednesday September 24th, 2014 about the nature of our engagement moving forward.

This most recent and severe epidemic began in Guecjedou, Guinea in December 2013 and was identified as Ebola in March of 2014. In July of 2014 the magnitude of the outbreak became clear as containment continued to elude humanitarian and medical responders. On August 12th, 2014 the SBTF received an activation request from NetHope to collect and synthesize situational information as coordinated response efforts got under way. The 15 member organizations of NetHope responding to the epidemic required assistance in centralizing their collective data stores and transforming this information into common operational maps to be hosted in the open geospatial repository. The product of our combined efforts is available to the public here: http://ohdr.nethope.opendata.arcgis.com/.

We are happy to note that we were able to contribute information and resources to organizations responding formally in country and volunteer collaborative efforts online. In addition, this activation provides promising lessons on coordinating communications between these two disparate but connected effectors in future collaborations. Though the SBTF will no longer be updating their datasets for Phase I there are a number of individual members still engaged in different tasks to support the ongoing humanitarian response. All datasets in acceptable format for the public domain are hosted on the NetHope site. The underlying sketches and active internal Google sheets have been closed and are currently being archived. We would like to thank all of the volunteers who contributed to Phase I of this project. Our work has been recognized and is providing direct support to the relief efforts on the ground. We are pleased to announce that we will now shift the focus of our engagement as we enter Phase II of this deployment. More information to follow soon, stay tuned.

We’re A Non-Profit Organization! The Incorporation is Official!

Today we are excited to officially announce that the Standby Task Force is taking the next step in a large push within the crisis-mapping community to professionalize our field. For the SBTF that meant hammering down to the details of what we really do, and do well.

Namely we:

  1. Assist communities affected by disaster through online support and cooperation with local and international responders.
  2. Recruit and train volunteers to assist communities affected by crisis
  3. Coordinate with other agencies, organizations, and crisis mapping volunteers to maximize positive impacts in communities affected by crisis
  4. Provide sustainable and predictable crisis mapping and data informatics services to first responders in crisis situations

In order to achieve these efforts we will be accepting donations and contributions to further these objectives and engage in activities that are within our charitable and educational objectives. We are happy to announce that as of August 21st, 2014 the Standby Task Force is now a recognized Not-for-Profit in the state of Delaware and are in the process of application for Federal tax exemption as a recognized charitable and educational 501 (c)3 organization. The Officers and Directors of the SBTF are listed below. On behalf of all the Directors we want to say thanks to all our members for making this possible by sustaining us with your dedication over the years and to our partners who have pushed us to be better and learn with each deployment we have been activated for.

We have a training coming up next week on September 10th, 2014 from 02:00 pm (14:00) – 08:00 pm (20:00) Eastern Standard Time that will provide members with a practical guide to creating base layers and chloropleth maps utilizing a data set on sexual & gender based violence, trafficking & various human/social development indicators. More information is available here for those interested in participating in this joint training with Development Services International.

How Did We Get Here?

Well, it’s been nearly four years since the Standby Task Force began providing data mapping and crisis informatics services to communities affected by disasters. What started off as a discussion between four individuals at the First Annual International Conference of Crisis-Mapping (ICCM) has grow into a vibrant international community of 1,313 members that represent 79 countries. We have provided direct crisis-mapping, data analytic and crisis communication informatics in 29 official and 33 side deployments. Our partners range from a handful of concerned citizen to large multi-lateral development agencies and our members have continued to demonstrate a dedication to serving directly the individuals and communities affected by both sudden on-set and man-made disasters.

The past four years have transformed our organization and we continue to learn and grow as individual members through this process. Having tested a number of management and decision making structures over the past years we learned by trial and fire what was practical for a loose collaborative of crisis-mapping professional hacking together across time and space. We’ve had challenges and there have been breakdowns. We’ve also achieved incredible success and learned from our mistakes.

Elected Officers of the Board

Justine Mackinnon – Chairwoman of the Board

Per Aarvik – Vice Chairman of the Board

Joyce Monsees – Treasury

Hilary Nicole Ervin – Secretary

Board of Directors

Keera Morrish

Jeannine Lemaire

Helena Puig Larrauri

Patrick Meier

Jaroslav Valuch

Melissa Dawn Elliot

When it came time to elect an initial Board the decision was difficult more so in determining who not to include, because our list was long. In the end it came down to Founders and effective Officers. In the beginning of the year when the SBTF was restricted following a lengthy internal dialogue on structure, decision-making and mission, we elected a 22-member Core Team with a vision of working out the details of how we manage and accomplish our work into an organizational framework that would allow us to professionalize the critical services we provide to the international community in general and those affected by disasters in specific.

We’re all getting excited for the International Conference on Crisis Mapping (ICCM 2014) in New York City this year that runs from November 6th-9th with pre-training sessions and a plethora of community networking and education opportunities. This years conference will spotlight the communities affected by disasters, and our leadership is excited to have the populations we serve at the forefront of our communities discussion on how we carry out this work.

Standby Task Force activates to support NetHope during the Ebola outbreak

Standby Task Force have been activated by NetHope to assist in collection and management of information in connection with the West African Ebola outbreak.

–Urgent assistance is needed to support the 15+ NetHope member organizations that are actively involved in the response to the outbreak in the four countries in West Africa where cases have been confirmed: Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria, says Gisli Olafsson, Emergency Response Director in NetHope.

Standby Task Force will help collect openly available baseline data about the countries involved and collect openly available, yet reliable data about the outbreak into the open geospatial repository.
–Our digital volunteers are able to re-format and visualize data needed by the member organizations of NetHope. This is also a type of work that our communities do, says Justine Mackinnon, president of the Standby Task Force.
See also the blogpost at NetHope.

Enduring the world’s loss – July 2014

Our world endured a dramatic amount of suffering and loss of life this week. We offer our condolences to those who lost countrymen, colleagues, loved ones and friends. Through it all, we continue to believe that compassion and generosity is the strength of mankind and will prevail.

We stand with you during this difficult time and honor those who lost their lives by persevering in our efforts to help those in need.

Warmest regards,

The Standby Task Force Core Team

Update on SBTF #balkanfloods activation

Standby Task Force has been activated by UNOCHA via the Digital Humanitarian Network.

“While different assessment are being carried out, OCHA Coordinated Assessment Support Section (CASS) based in Geneva are carrying out rapid secondary data analysis to support the United Nations Resident Coordinators in the affected countries.
While country team is channeling information from the ground, CASS would also like to tap in other information sources and collect as much information as possible”

Please try the new apps and start clicking to help the response.

FYI: Text and image clicker app is up and running
iOS : https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/clickers/id859016775?mt=8
: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=tw.org.geothings.clickers