Saturday, April 9, 2011

FieldEx 2011 Wrap-Up

At 9 am this morning, we arrived in Fletcher to begin the Field Ex Crisis simulation. With limited knowledge of the background situation in Comootros, including political unrest, ethnic tensions and NGOs on the ground, we brainstormed a structure to organize the workflow for our crisis mapping team.

We divided into 3 teams to assess and map data:
Administration maintained phone contact with trusted sources on the ground as well as the public information officer who interfaced with the media.
Logistics gathered and categorized SMS data, while maintaining and monitoring blog and twitter posts.
Operations mapped raw data on Crowdmap to share with individuals to aid in NGO and UN efforts on the ground.

The process of mapping and verifying reports is an intense one, as reports come in faster than teams can approve them. The lightning speed of this crisis bonded our team together through an urgent shared goal. We devised a system to accurately and efficiently move information through our clearly devised workflow as we all kept in constant communication. David Meyers, our technical expert, commented on technology’s role with the group:

“At first, we tried using FrontlineSMS and things didn’t work out, which often happens when using technologies like this. Backlogged for an hour at the start of the day, we eventually created a new system using completely different software. But in the end, while it was tedious copying messages over into usable data, we managed to pull together as a group and get caught up to where we needed. Soon after our transfer we were back on track and stayed on top of it until the end.”

Miriam Ross-Hirsch, our social network liaison, speaks to the dangerous capacity of information to alter an outcome:

“It was hard to find a balance between tweeting sensitive information that seemed important for those on the ground to know, and keeping some information private to avoid increased turmoil.”

Operations member Ben Wang discusses the challenges of working with our mapping platform.

“Often reports we were mapping were not occurring in one place, which was difficult when creating static points on Crowdmap.”

When word reached us that a peaceful, democratic solution had been reached in Comootros, we were finally able to take stock of what a challenging and important experience this was. We are grateful for the opportunity to participate in this project and we sincerely hope our efforts aided in this favorable outcome.

-Tufts Crisis Mapping Team

16:00 Press Release

1600: A settlement has been arranged during negotiations in the capitol city.  Protests have ended at this time, and peace seems to have been restored in the area.  The Crisis Mapping Team has concluded most operations, but will continue to monitor missing persons reports sent to +16176826346

15:30 Press Release

1530: Our sources from the capitol city have reported that violence has resumed.  A number of missing persons reports have also been filed, and our Crisis Mapping team has received many requests for medical aid.  We have been in contact with an NGO who is en route to provide medical aid at this time.  Negotiations between rival groups, as well as the UN, are currently taking place in the capitol.  The IDP camp is now essentially empty, and journalists have begun to contact displaced citizens about the recent events.  Peaceful protests have begun as negotiations continue.  Those involved in negotiations are optimistic that agreements may be reached. Requests for aid, including missing persons reports, should be sent via SMS text to +16176826346

15:00 Press Release

At a recent press conference, two individuals of unknown affiliation were suspected of attempting to assassinate certain politicians.  The UN detained 2 men with guns, who escaped imprisonment. The UN was able to locate the fugitives, at which point they opened fire and killed one of the men.  Rebel sympathizers in the IDP Camp attempted to remove the body, but the Cosmootros military opened fire on the group.  Two citizens were killed and an additional one was injured. The injured individual has been relocated to a clinic and a funeral is being held for the two fatalities. The violence appears to have ceased at this time.  The Crisis Mapping team has been able to help coordinate medical aid for those injured by violence.  Requests for aid should be sent via SMS text to +16176826346

13:30 Press Release

1330:  Reportedly, the UN and Rebel groups in possession of food stores had established a common food distribution point.  Recently, however, the military began to attempt suppression of rebel forces and may have taken some of their members into custody.  The Crisis Mapping team has received some conflicting messages, but is working to confirm reports from trusted sources about the specifics of recent events.  

13:00 Press Release

1300: We have received reports via SMS text that a UN convoy carrying food supplies was ambushed outside of the IDP camp by an unknown group.  Additionally, a significant population of the IDP camp has left the area; reports indicate that this group is traveling to the capitol city to partake in an impromptu election, and because people believe that there will be food available in the capitol.  This migration, however, is leading the group through a combat zone.  NGOs are unable to ensure protection of citizens outside of the camp.  The Crisis Mapping team would like to encourage all citizens to make personal safety their first priority, and to continue sending SMS texts for aid to +16176826346.  

12:30PM Press Release

1230: We have received reports that NGO food supplies have arrived at the IDP camp, but there is ongoing unrest concerning its distribution.  The Crisis Mapping Team’s Social Networking Liason is monitoring political sentiments via, and reports that inter-faction tensions remain high.  Our Logistics Division is consistently receiving SMS messages from citizens, and and reports that the majority of these are concerned with the ongoing need for food in the IDP camp.  Our Operations Divisions is inputting these data to our map so that out team can be continuously ready to advise organizations with supplies.  This map can be accessed via