By Kate Chapman for the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team
Last month I participated in a training for OSOCC & HIC Support Staff at the Crisis Management Centre in Kuopio, Finland. I was attending as a representative of the Digital Humanitarian Network. This training was intended serve as a pilot training for those supporting On-Site Operations Coordination Centres (OSOCC) and Humanitarian Information Centers (HIC). My purpose there was two-fold. One to learn exactly what an OSOCC and a HIC roles are and to present the Digital Humanitarian Network to the other trainees. After attending the training I think there are many ways the Digital Humanitarian Network (DHN) can assist in these centers.
The intent of the OSOCC and the HIC are both somewhat similar to server as coordination centers, but they take place at different times after an event. The OSOCC is set-up as soon as possible after an event and be in place for a few weeks. The HIC is intended to be deployed a week or so afterward, overlapping with the OSOCC but be in place potentially much longer. This would depend on the size of the event and the needs of the response. Additionally the HIC has not existed in recent years, but a need for the information coordination role the HIC places has been recognized and it is being brought back.
I have to say I wasn't really sure what to expect from the training, as far as the specifics. Initially we were divided into 3 teams and our first task was to set-up the technical infrastructure for the OSOCC/HIC. Literally our teams set-up routers/printers/laptops/cabling and wrestled with some configuration issues. Later we learned the basics of performing assessments and did a scenario to practiced what we had learned. The scenario and assessment training was to give OSOCC/HIC support staff an idea of the type of activities to be supported, but not necessarily do an assessment in the field. Additionally there was a brainstorming session to discuss how to enhance the the role of the HIC by envisioning it as a kind of coworking space to assist those working on a response. One potential service of the HIC facility would be coordination with remote support and potentially having a coordinator from the DHN performing that from the HIC. In a future blog post I will discuss what I think the make-up of that coordinator should be. It was summarized as a "geek that was good with people," this obviously can mean many things. As someone that fancies myself that type of geek, I certainly have a strong opinion.
Many of the the members of the DHN came into existence after the earthquake in Haiti. There was little or no prior coordination between on the ground response organizations and these new developing networks. The DHN having a role in training courses like this is vital to our effectiveness in future responses. Often our membership responds on our own when a crisis occurs, but the DHN itself is activated by response organizations. If the people working in those organizations and roles don't know that we exist they will never call on us. The digital humanitarian groups and the humanitarian responders additionally may not understand each other to both make the right types of requests and to fulfill those requests effectively. The more we work together before something happens the greater the trust and understanding will be that develops. I think there are a few key points on the ground responders can ask themselves if it might be time to ask for the assistance of the DHN.
There are certainly more possible questions, but I think the above are a simple starting point. As well there is the DHN Report on "Guidance for Collaborating with Volunteer and Technical Communities" to help people get started. As HICs reemerge as a tool in response to events hopefully the DHN can assist and continue to provide support to those responding.