Katrina response, private and public

Bill Woodcock woody at pch.net
Tue Jan 19 20:34:32 UTC 2010

On Jan 19, 2010, at 11:27 AM, Rodney Joffe wrote:
> Is there anything that any of us can do to help, exert influence, etc (short of donating which many of us are already doing).

I'm sure other people involved in the relief work can suggest other things, but a few comments from my point of view:

  - Communications capability underpins the ability of other relief workers to do their jobs effectively, so although we, as a community, aren't feeding people or tending to their medical needs, we are helping those who are doing those crucial jobs by allowing them to focus on their work.

  - In the short-term, the equipment that's been requested by people on the ground has either already been delivered, is onboard a ship that left Jacksonville about twelve hours ago, or is being containerized to load on a ship that's leaving from Port Everglades tomorrow.

  - Also in the short-term, keep an eye out for con-artists who are trying to lure people in to fake aid-donation web sites with spam.  Law enforcement is coordinating internationally to take those offline as promptly as possible.  If you get fake aid-donation spam, please forward it to Tom Grasso <thomas.x.grasso at ugov.gov> or Randy Vickers <randal.vickers at dhs.gov>.  Either of them or I can pass things along to the international coordination group that's addressing this.

  - In the mid-term, what our community needs to do is to make sure that backhaul infrastructure gets into place to move traffic in the 1Gbps-10Gbps range from Port au Prince to Miami.  There are several cable systems which land in Santo Domingo, and Columbus has a branching unit off Guantanamo, so our main efforts have been focused on getting a festoon cable run around from the Santo Domingo landing (the University of Puerto Rico Marine Research labs have committed their cable-laying ship, crew, and divers, but we're still looking for an appropriate spool of armored singlemode in the 12-24 core range (more certainly wouldn't hurt, as this would be unrepeatered), and on finding funding to get Columbus to run the spur in from their BU.  BTC apparently has fiber already existing or in process of turn-up between Port au Prince and the Bahamas, but nobody's been able to get a response from them yet about its status.

  - More generally, as a community, we do good when we make sure that places like this, places that may not have large or lucrative markets, are still served by diverse fiber, rather than by a single fragile monopoly, or not at all, as in Haiti's case.  There are many countries as vulnerable as Haiti, and many of them have no fiber.  Most humanitarian disasters happen in poor countries and these are generally the countries our community currently has the least capacity to serve.  We can think a little more broadly than that, looking to a future when people in poor countries have more smartphones, and students and small businesses are getting online.  We don't need to wait for markets to develop...  we can invest in those markets, and _cause_ them to develop.  Then they won't be as vulnerable to disasters like this.

  - Thinking to the longer term...  The majority of people who die in humanitarian disasters die of second-order effects like starvation and disease that come in the wake of an earthquake or flood or whatever.  That's just beginning now in Haiti, and will continue for some time.  The people who died in the earthquake itself will be far outnumbered by those who will die as a result of insufficiently prepared emergency response.  PCH and Cisco have been trying for _years_ to get donors to support a ready-to-go emergency communications team for disaster response, but it's been impossible to get donors to fund _preparedness_ rather than after-the-fact response.  But immediately after an emergency is the _most expensive_ time to acquire generators and fuel and solar panels and wind generators and batteries and satphones and fiber and space-segments and so forth.  All of that can be _much more cheaply_ purchased or contracted for beforehand, and delivered on-site weeks earlier.  And those weeks are the weeks of effective response that reduce second-order deaths in the wake of an emergency.  People who think they're being helpful with a donation now should understand that the donation would have saved ten times as many lives if it had been made a year ago, than if it's made now.  If your companies have charitable foundations, please get them to think about that.


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