This year had many Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) message aggregation organizations present their stories in complementing the delivery of early warnings. Everyone is mostly interested in doing public warning. Sahana Alerting and Messaging Broker (SAMBRO) was the only solution that addressed Restricted and Private alerting in support of multi-agency situational-awareness., Meteoalarm, the Weather Company, Federation of Internet Alerting, AccuWeather, were some of the highlights. A common trait they all shared was demanding for more features (or information or capabilities) in CAP for effectively rendering and stylistically presenting the warning messages for the consumers; namely the public.

We also heard from Environmental Canada as to how they have taken on the responsibility of developing presentation layers for the rendering agents like TV, Radio, Web, etc; rather than relying on the rendering agents to develop their own. It is intuitive, because rendering agencies do not master in the knowledge of the Alerting Authorities. SAMBRO follows a similar doctrine. “The beauty of CAP is in its conciseness and consistency”, a fact that OASIS was stressing. Bending CAP data structure is not the solution but some ingenuity to deliver effective presentations is preferred.

8d-FloodThe CAP Implementation Workshop was hosted by the Istituto Superiore Antincendi (also known as the Italian Fire Corp Academy), in Rome, Italy, 22-24 September 2014. The workshop presentations are hosted online:  click to access all the workshop presentations. Besides the workshop, it was a delight to experience old and new Rome, a city that once was prone to major floods that is now resilient to such threats. 

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) has joined the co-host umprella of the CAP Implementation Workshop. The original co-hosts were the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS), International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and the Word Meteorological Organization (WMO); workshop website:  2015 Common Alerting Protocol Implementation Workshop

IFRC has developed a suite of Global Preparedness Center Mobile Apps. National societies can customize these apps. Not only to display and function in the National language but also to configure it to the country context. Those who know the history of Sahanaa are aware that the IFRC Resource Management System, adopted by societies worldwide, is a solution of Sahana Eden. The IFRC Emergency App (mobile app) is responsive to CAP feeds. The IFRC Resource Management System is equipped to issue alerts and receive incident reports. However, it is not CAP compliant. I was surprised to learn that the IFRC mobile apps were not integrated with the IFRC Resource Management System. I suppose it is different societies doing different things. Nevertheless, SAMBRO is building itself to serve as a CAP feed aggregator that can be integrated with those mobile apps.

Kenya has done a remarkable job with developing a matrix that relates the severity, certainty, and urgency with the impact and probability of the event. However, the matrix has some more working. The classification takes into consideration the time-to-impact, event type, and the intensity of the weather conditions. However, the impact is specific to the geographic location and the environmental conditions and not the severity of the hazard event. Other presenters stressed on the same; thus, emphasizing that CAP messages should carry the impact with an interest in warning people to be responsive.

sambro_functionsThe Italians area quite ahead of everyone else when it comes to adopting the Emergency Data Exchange Language (EDXL) suite of standards. They have gone beyond EDXL-CAP to integrate EDXL-SITREP and EDXL-RM. They admit that CAP is easy compared to the other standards to implement. SAMBRO has the same vision. It envisions providing comprehensive solution that provides a solution starting from risk mapping to alerting to incident management and resource management. It was not just a Sahana vision but also a request that came from several SAMBRO adopters.

It is our mission to bring the CAP Implementation Workshop to Thailand. Thereby, we are able to alternate from hosting the workshop in the West (Americas and Europe) and the East (Asia). The 2014 workshop was in Sri Lanka. Hosting the 2016 event in Thailand would help promote CAP in the Asia Pacific Region.

The final day of the Training of Master Trainers Workshop was primarily interactions with the CAP on a Map project UNESCAP Program Officer: Mr. Alf Blikberg. The participants had the opportunity to present their cases to him. The outline of their presentation discussed the current early warning practices in their country, their satisfaction/dissatisfaction on the training received, expectations complete system requirements, and the strengths/weaknesses of implementing SAMBRO. Project leads also presented a summary of the project overview and next steps.


The country presentations to ESCAP from the Trainees were diverse with each country presenting a different story. The three countries: Maldives, Myanmar, and Philippines believed that the SAMBRO implementation would improve their warning dissemination latencies with the single entry of a message disseminated warning messages through multiple channels to multiple personnel or organizations. These issues, identified during the information stocktaking activities of the project are discussed in the trip reports:

  1. Maldives workshop report
  2. Philippines workshop report
  3. Myanmar workshop report

They were also intrigued that SAMBRO could be customized to harmonize with their current work flow practices. These involve message authorization prior to diffusion; preparing a formatted PDF document of the alert message to be used as a paper trail; amending the message at various stages of the hazard event such as the rising, saturation, and receding of the flood waters. 

In the case of Myanmar and Philippines it would reduce the time to one minute. However, the Master Trainers were concerned of the effectiveness of SAMBRO give its dependency on the Internet. Alerting Authorities will need to access the centralized SAMBRO instance over the Internet to create, approve, and disseminate the warning messages. Another concern was on the ability to deliver messages to those outside the reach of commercial telecommunications services, like SMS, Email, and Web.

The Master Trainers  planned their implementation strategy; namely, implementing the Common Alerting Protocol and operationalizing the SAMBRO system. Their planned activities would begin with presenting the outcomes of the Training of Master Trainer program to their respective department heads. Thereafter, they organize an awareness workshop to discuss the training program, implementation goals, and operationalization strategy with the participating National organizations. They would agree on an implementation plan, including setting dates for the Training of National Trainers, to take place in the next 4 – 8 weeks.

The immediate national-level training will build capacity among the Alerting Authorities to develop their own hazard event specific templates, registering the alert recipients, and testing the alerting procedures. During the last two days of the Training of Master Trainer Workshop in Thailand, the participants developed their own training material reusing material from the workshop. Hey will use the self-developed material to train the fellow countrymen. We are looking forward for the training and implementation to complete over the coming months. Thereafter, the project will prepare to under go the evaluation phase with the controlled simulations.

You guys have put in a lot of thought in to the SAMBRO design“, a participant said.

SAMBRO Group at AIT Geoinformatics Center

SAMBRO Community of Practice (Trainees, Trainers, Othes) at AIT Geoinformatics Center with the King and Founder of Sahana Eden Software Platform

The first week of the Training of Trainer program had the participants learn about GIS and Sahana. They went further into learning about the tools and techniques associated with GIS, specifically intended for risk mapping. Thereafter, the participants got a flavor of the Sahana concepts, other deployments, how the engine works and getting their hands dirty with a few exercises. Part of it also involved testing the usability of the Sahana Alerting and Messaging Broker (SAMBRO).

By the end of the first week they experienced the SAMBRO GIS workflows designed for risk mapping and developing predefined alert areas. They also went through the SAMBRO CAP-enabled warning workflows with developing CAP message templates, creating alert messages, and publishing them on the Web and disseminating through SMS, Email, and RSS feeds. After a tiring first week the workshop wound down on a cheerful mood with a BBQ hosted by the Geoinformatics Center.


The second week began with the participants engaging in a design exercise. It was intended for them to self-realize the systems and procedures required in managing crises. The preliminary group exercise was listing a handful of hazards and the kind of information required, then mapping the hazard events to the kind of information required for situational-awareness. Then they listed the communication media they would use to exchange the information between emergency response organizations and the public. The three sets and the arcs between them formed a tripartite graph. The complexity was apparent with a multiple arcs incident on a handful of communication media.


Surprisingly traditional media: TV and Radio was the most popular with new media: Web, SMS, and Email taking second place. Intuitively broadcast media is most effective communicating with the public and new media effective with the emergency management organizations. Coordinating information between multiple agencies using multiple communication modes is cumbersome and the complexity grows exponentially. This is where the power of SAMBRO helps simply the information exchange complexity.

affinityThe next exercise was designed to realize the kind of functions that a SAMBRO system would require in serving the information flow for decision support in response to crisis. The groups took part in developing an affinity diagram. They began generating a wish list with the kind of features and functions they desired in this system. The notes were clustered in to five cliques. Risk analysis, alerting / warning, situational-reporting, resource management, and communications. WALAH … that is exactly the vision of the SAMBRO design. That is providing the tools and work flows that allow for situational-awareness and addressing the resource management.

Sahana Alerting and Messaging Broker (SAMBRO) continues to mature; especially with the Maldives, Myanmar, and Philippine implementations. Trainees from the three countries belonging to their Meteorological and Disaster Management Agencies are receiving training. They will receive training on GIS concepts, techniques, and tools required for developing predefined alert areas and training on administering, configuring, and implementing the CAP-enabled SAMBRO software. The training is part of the ‘CAP on a Map‘ project aiming to improve institutional responsiveness to coastal hazards.


The practitioners were trilled to be exposed to the internal engine of Sahana software and be given the opportunity write some code and develop a simple module. Except for one person, who is a Techie, all others have never written a single line of code to consider themselves as a programmer. The were excited wear the shoes of a programmer and seeing first hand the simplicity the Sahana framework is that allows them to build a simple module with a map for managing geo-spatial information.

Click to view the complete program

The training began on Monday August 31st and spans through until Friday September 11th. It was organized in collaboration with the Asian Institute of Technology Geoinformatics Center with funding made possible through UNESCAP  Trust Fund for Tsunami, Disaster, and Climate Preparedness.. The workshop aims to:

1. Train and certify a set of Master Trainers: with an overview on Geographic Information System (GIS) essentials for enabling country context data for risk mapping, Sahana Alerting and Messaging Broker (SAMBRO) administrative, implementation, and operational procedures, Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) content standard and operating procedures

2. Develop capacity among the Master Trainers for: collaborating with their National Agencies for developing risk mapping advocated predefined alert areas for impact-based alerting, building Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) capacity within their country for implementing CAP procedures, implementing the CAP-enabled SAMBRO for improving multi-agency situational-awareness and all-hazard all-media warning capabilities

Two weeks after the ‘CAP on a Map‘ project kick-off workshop, the Department of Meteorology and Hydrology got busy responding to the massive floods -

mm_flood_blogHeavy seasonal rains caused flooding in Rakhine State and other parts of the country at the end of June. At the beginning of July, the Relief and Resettlement Department (RRD) in Nay Pyi Taw reported that close to 14,800 people had been affected by floods throughout the country, with over 13,000 of those affected in Rakhine State.” – Reliefweb Report, Myanmar: Floods and Landslide, June 2015.

The Nation continues to battle with hazard events caused by severe weather events originating from the western Bay of Bengal and the northeastern Chinese Mountains. The CAP on a Map project is designed to improve the institutional responsiveness to all-hazards. The project will train Myanmar alerting and emergency management authorities on the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) interoperable content standard and the Sahana Alerting and Messaging Broker (SAMBRO). The kick-off workshop, that was hosted by DMH at their premises, 15 June 2015, was to introduce the concepts and determine the participating Organizations.



As part of the information stocktaking activity, AIT and SSF team members traveled to Tatkon, approximately 65 Km from the Naypyitaw capitol city. We observed many farming community to be sparsely scattered and to be disconnected from the main electric power grid. They use oil lamps and some have small solar panels (5 bulb systems).  DMH replies on TV and Radio to warn the public of severe weather events and provide situational reports. However, none of them without main grid consistent power would be able to operate a Television set.

Workshop participants also echoed the challenges with the coverage of electricity and its unreliability. A radio powered by batteries is the only alternative to receiving weather bulletins and special weather broadcasts from the Myanmar Radio and Television (MRTV). Relatively low powered mobile phones present to be a lucrative and inclusive solution to complement MRTV. LIRNEasia finds show 99% of the representative survey sample to carry a mobile phone.

Telecommunications are not yet or very little is adopted in pubic alerting. Telecommunications Service Providers (TSPs) would bill DMH for using their services such as with disseminating Short Message Service (SMS) or Cell Broadcast (CB) text-messages. A recommendation was for DMH to request, as part of a National policy in support of the emergency communications plan and licensing agreement or as part of the TSP Corporate Social Responsibilty, to provide a limited quantity of bulk SMS and possibly CB facilities for disseminating timely warnings.

Participants engaged in several group exercises. These discussions revealed language and digital literacy to be weak factors that would require special attention. People can read and write but lack knowledge in interpreting warning messages or scientific terminology. SAMBRO, with the underlying CAP standard and procedures, would address all those factors. CAP is designed for all-hazard all-media dissemination with a structure to accommodate multiple languages. Moreover, it removes ambiguity with consistent and complete messages that would provide instructions for laymen to understand.

blog_01The Philippines Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), Philippines Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHILVOLCS), and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) are three agencies of foremost importance. Combined they are responsible for the monitoring, detecting, and warning of key natural hazards that continue to threaten and impact the Archipelago. On average, the Islands are exposed to 20 Typhoons each year; making PAGASA a very busy agency. The ocean fault lines are almost an arms reach away that gives PHILVOLCS less than a 20-30 minutes tsunami warning horizon.

We came to learn of these fact during the ‘CAP on a Map‘ kick-off workshop. It was held at the Amihan Conference Room, at PAGASA, in Quezon City – Manila. Workshop participants represented a mix of organizations belonging to hazard detection/monitoring, alerting authorities, first-responder agencies and TV broadcasters. They participated in a few exercises intended to discuss the state of sharing alerts and warnings. PAGASA is one step a head with implementing CAP. They have worked with Google Crisis Response to publish CAP messages for public dissemination.

The Cap on a Map project, made possible through funding from UNESCAP Trust Fund for Tsunami, Disaster and Climate Preparedness, will expand on the previous efforts to introduced all-hazard all-media and multi-agency situational-awareness approach. The workshop discussions also revealed that Filipinos are a mobile app culture with various risk information sharing apps. All of these findings are discussed in the report.


PAGASA_workshop_10 Discussions with the Philippines Disaster Recover Foundation (PDRF) realized the need to think of public utilities as an important partners who should be intertwined with the situational-awareness. Gas pipe explosion was a scenario discussed during one of the workshop group exercise. Water and Electricity is privatized in the Philippines; same as Telecommunications. Involving all public and private stakeholders in the design and roll-out is critical to operationalizing a functional early warning system.

At the outset the project is partnering with the PAGASA to pave the way in implementing the project in the Philippines. The implementation would deploy the SAMBRO Multi Agency Situational Awareness (MASA) platform. It is intended to improve the situational-awareness for the disaster and emergency management agencies. The knowledge mobilized through the MASA software would enhance the coordination of the response to various hazard events and incidents. CAP is the supporting piece that fosters interoperability enabling the exchange of all-hazard alert/warning with multiple agencies and the public using all available media channels. As we move forward, with the design and implementation, we will be exercising a participatory community centric approach involving all relevant institutions and administrative strata.

SahanaCamp Turkey

by Fran Boon || (0)

Turkey recently hosted the latest SahanaCamp, that magical blend of humanitarians and techie folks coming together to work on solving information management problems.

Elvan Cantekin, General Manager at the MAG Foundation has been working on this for a couple of years and thanks to funding from the European Union, he has managed to make this happen – perseverance pays off!

We were here to support SITAP (Civil Society Disaster Platform) to allow local NGOs to share information during disasters, a gap which was felt keenly during previous disasters.

The event was run very professionally, including real-time translation which made me feel like I was at the UN general assembly!

Many of the key agency stakeholders were present for the overview sessions and there was a lot of enthusiasm for sharing their data with each and also with the general public. Their IM representatives then rolled up their sleeves and got into the details of what data they wished to share with whom, they will follow this up by creating a stakeholder reference group to steer the policy and priorities of their shared site.

We were fortunate to have Mehmet Tirgil’s prior experience with Sahana to help facilitate the technical sessions as we looked at the data they had to import: reformatting where we had the fields already; adding fields where generically useful; and adding a new module for the Turkey-specific identity card details – linked, of course, to the core Person registry.

Mehmet Tirgil Presenting

A technical team has been established to customise and support both the shared instance and any individual agency instance, which a few agencies were interested in.

The team includes members from Red Crescent, Ministry of Health and Support to Life who were the most ready and keen to deploy quickly.

I look forward to seeing this community develop as we continue to work together on this important project.

The Sahana Software Foundation has deployed an instance of the Sahana Open Source Disaster Management Software server to provide a flexible solution for organizations and communities to respond to the Nepal Earthquake:

Please contact with questions or to request  support or additional features.  If you want or plan to use our software please provide some details about your organization and your specific needs. The Sahana community has also been working with the Ministry of Home Affairs National Emergency Operation Center (NEOC) to support their deployment of Sahana. We hope that this will become a platform to share data that is being captured and curated by the Digital Humanitarian Network. We are also coordinating with IBM and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) who are providing support to the NEOC. If you would like to support us you can volunteer by sending a message to and / or donate here.

Michael Howden
CEO, Sahana Software Foundation
skype: michael.howden

We have been stepping up our coordination efforts and engaging with folks in Nepal and from around the world who are interested in using Sahana to support the response to this devastating earthquake.

Arun Pyasi is currently in Nepal and has been working with members  of the Free and Open Source Nepal Community to start collecting data on organizations, locations, shelters, hospitals and volunteers. Sahana Eden has excellent capabilities to manage this data and to provide accurate reports on situational awareness.

Minesh Joshi who is currently in Dallas, Texas has been supporting a team of 30 volunteers from the Nepalese Society, Texas who are on on their way to Nepal. This team will use Sahana for volunteer management and logistics, to track their volunteers and the distribution of relief supplies, and to assess future needs on the ground in Nepal.

Manish Bhattarai is in the Netherlands and is in contact with the National Emergency Operation Center (NEOC) to offer  support with their deployment of Sahana. He is also talking with other organizations in Nepal who are interested in using Sahana.

Fran Boon from AidIQ is currently configuring a deployment of Sahana Eden which we will host to support the ongoing needs of the people responding to the earthquake in Nepal.  Once the deployment is live it will be available to all organizations.

Based on client and user needs, we plan to customize Sahana to manage data that is currently being captured and curated by the Digital Humanitarian Network who Sahana Director, Devin Balkind is currently coordinating with. If you’d like to support this work, please joining our mailing list.

If your organization wants to use the Sahana Open Source Disaster Management Software, please contact our mailing list or email me directly.

Michael Howden
CEO, Sahana Software Foundation
skype: michael.howden

As you are probably aware a 7.8 magnitude earthquake has struck Nepal on 25th April causing 2,288 deaths and injuring over 5,500 people [1]. Sahana is already being used in Nepal by both the Nepal Red Cross Society and the National Emergency Operation Center (NEOC) of the Ministry of Home Affairs (for more information see the Sahana Nepal Deployments page). The Sahana Community is currently reaching out to Red Cross, National Emergency Operation Center and other partners in Nepal to see how we can help.

If you are actively involved in the response and recovery efforts and are interested in using the Sahana Open Source Disaster Management Software, please contact our mailing list or email me directly.

Through generous offers of donations from Terri Pond, Louiqa Raschid and Sahana Directors Brent Woodworth and Nuwan Waidyanatha the Sahana Software Foundation are able to provided dedicated remote and on-the-ground support as needed to complement any voluntary response from the community.

While we are waiting to hear the specific needs from partners, if you would like to help, you can familiarize yourself with the Sahana software. If you are currently in Nepal and want to help with Sahana, the best thing that you can currently do is to get in touch with local volunteer and community groups and organizations. There is a huge response and recovery effort which you can help with. By working with these organizations you will get an idea of what information needs to be shared (which typically starts with Excel spreadsheets!). This could help identify gaps which Sahana can fill!

You could also help out with the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team’s efforts to map the areas affected by the earthquake - as Sahana uses these base maps.

I will post further updates as the situation develops.

Michael Howden
CEO, Sahana Software Foundation
skype: michael.howden