Case studyDisaster Relief
Proactive policies for more effective emergency responses
Speeding aidWhen a disaster occurs theres no time to waste. Charities and relief agencies are ever poised to act fast saving lives, stopping disease spreading, and providing food and shelter. But most major companies reactively assess each disaster before asking charities and governments what assistance they require.
BT however has broken that mould. In partnership with disaster relief organisations, it has pre-committed financial support and expertise: ensuring things are in place to help tackle a disaster before not after theyre needed. This strategys success underlines the disaster response role that enlightened commercial organisations could play.
Part of its wider Corporate Responsibility programme, that BT commitment is based on an understanding of how it can add most value. Natural disasters, in particular, tend to occur in regions with poor infrastructure. Even in developed areas, communications networks are often the first facilities to fail when the worst happens.
Effective communication is a critical factor for the relief effort. BT is ideally placed to provide equipment and experience to quickly establish vital voice and data links right around the world.
British Red CrossBT has been working with the British Red Cross since 2007, so far contributing 300,000 in funding as well as invaluable communications expertise.
Following the earthquake in Haiti in January 2010, which killed more than 230,000 people and left 1.3 million homeless, the Red Cross was one of the first agencies to respond. When its teams arrived in Haiti, they found that the mobile telephone network there had been affected by the earthquake and was not functioning.
Richard North, an emergency response unit team leader for the charity, says: Satellite phones funded by BT were critical to rapidly getting aid to survivors. Having the latest and most suitable technology meant that we could literally hit the ground running as we arrived in Haiti. Co-ordinating distribution would have taken much longer without such links.
The Red Cross set up operations in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, and in the neighbouring Dominican Republic. Using BT-funded laptops, access to the internet via the satellite-based Broadband Global Area Network provided up-to-the-minute information from affected areas.
In receiving relief flights and co-ordinating the aid effort such functions as transferring shipping and customs documents, and communicating with colleagues outside Haiti were enabled by email and internet telephony. Furthermore, the laptops were pre-loaded with specialist tracking software to monitor relief supplies.
Haiti is just one powerful example. In fact, BT has supported the British Red Cross in relief work right across the planet, including the Indonesian earthquake and the humanitarian disaster in Darfur.
Satellite phones funded by BT were critical to rapidly getting aid to survivors. Having the latest and most suitable technology meant that we could literally hit the ground running as we arrived in Haiti. Co-ordinating distribution would have taken much longer without such links.Richard NorthEmergency Response Unit Team LeaderBritish Red Cross
BT shows how commitment by major companies can make a difference even before global disasters strike
at BT, says: We were in discussions with DEC immediately after broadcasters first covered the floods, which meant we had processes ready to support the launch of the appeal, both online and over the phone.
The DEC logo and telephone number were displayed on huge wraparound screens at the top of the BT Tower, which was also opened for a DEC press event publicising the appeal.
International disaster reliefBT has responded to international disasters for many years, notably the Indonesian tsunami and the Pakistan earthquake in 2005. BT provided, on an ad-hoc basis, satellite equipment enabling telephone communication from temporary camps for those affected by the disasters. In 2007 it was decided to formalise a rapid response capability to provide immediate global assistance in disaster situations. This would include equipment and people experienced in working in arduous conditions and trained on deployable satellite equipment.
The BT Emergency Response Team (ERT), which is trained to work in hazardous conditions, supports this capability. Formed in 2005, the ERT is a group of 35 volunteers from across BT, each bringing unique technical expertise. They are provided with a range of emergency communications equipment ready to deploy in a disaster zone as soon as required.
The ERT has recently returned from Pakistan where it provided satellite-based telephone and internet access to four refugee camps housing some of the 20 million people believed to have been affected by the Pakistan floods. With the existing
communications infrastructure wiped out in flood-affected areas, that BT equipment was a vital contribution to the aid effort. It also enabled people displaced by the floods to make contact with their families, both in Pakistan and abroad.
Business angelsIts people drive the BT commitment to disaster relief. As a diverse global company everyone has a part to play whether its through the application of technology, deploying expertise in the UK and overseas, contributing to employee fundraising programmes, or working directly with charities.
BT partnerships with the British Red Cross and DEC show how collaboration between business and the third sector can dramatically improve the speed and effectiveness of disaster relief. The Guardian, in assessing international response to the Tsunami Earthquake Appeal, described the contribution of online donations as a milestone in the development of the internet... an angel of deliverance. That was made possible by the BT eDonate platform. Since then BT has used its experience to help other corporate organisations establish their own disaster relief strategies.
Beth Courtier concludes: The BT example has got other businesses thinking about what they could do to support disaster relief. Weve shown how to use business-planning skills to create a framework focusing on core assets and expertise. Disaster response is better supported than its ever been. Relief agencies now have commercial partners working strategically with them in a way never seen before.
Disasters Emergency CommitteeBT has worked in partnership with the UK Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) since DEC was incorporated as a charity. DEC is an umbrella organisation of 13 charities including Oxfam and Save the Children. It manages appeals for major global emergencies where substantial humanitarian needs cannot be met through normal channels.
Online donations to DEC appeals are processed using BT eDonate, a custom-built secure payment platform that can handle 24,000 simultaneous donations at 500 financial transactions per second. The system was first employed in 2004 brought into service by BT because the DEC online donation platform was not built to cope with the unprecedented response to the Tsunami Earthquake Appeal. A day later, eDonate had processed donations of over 10 million, earning it a place in the Guinness Book of Records for the most money ever donated online via a website in a 24-hour period.
When floods hit Pakistan in July 2010, those BT mechanisms were in place for rapid action in support of DEC fundraising. Beth Courtier, community investment programme manager
Offices worldwideThe services described in this publication are subject to availability and may be modified from time to time. Services and equipment are provided subject to British Telecommunications plcs respective standard conditions of contract. Nothing in this publication forms any part of any contract. The meaning of the word partner or partnership in this case study does not give rise to a partnership as defined in the Partnership Act 1890 or other relevant law.
British Telecommunications plc 2010.Registered office: 81 Newgate Street, London EC1A 7AJRegistered in England No: 1800000
The BT example has got other businesses thinking about what they could do to support disaster relief. Weve shown how to use business-planning skills to create a framework focusing on core assets and expertise. Disaster response is better supported than its ever been. Relief agencies now have commercial partners working strategically with them in a way never seen before.Beth CourtierCommunity Investment Programme ManagerBT
Case studyDisaster Relief