Digital transformation

A best-practice open data framework

Oct 10, 2018

American Red Cross is leading a global open data movement to share their internal data and systems freely with other agencies and members of the public, with the soon-to-be-launched American Red Cross Hub.

Ahead of his visit to Australia this November for the Australian Esri User Conference, American Red Cross Senior Director Brian Keenum speaks with Mark Wallace about the new two-way collaboration platform and shares why it represents the next era in the not-for-profit group’s service delivery.

Mark Wallace: I understand the next focus for American Red Cross is making its GIS solution more accessible, not only to its partner agencies and organisations (which we spoke about in our last blog), but also to the public. Can you tell us a bit about this initiative?

Brian Keenum: Yes, we’re currently working on a project called American Red Cross Hub, which is all about establishing a two-way communication platform between us and our many stakeholders. It draws on the new capabilities and frameworks Esri has recently launched with ArcGIS Hub to take our foundational GIS work to the broader community, so we can collaborate on projects and amplify the effects of the work we do.  It really is the next step in evolving our data-driven decision-making capability to increase readiness and to better meet our mission of alleviating human suffering in the face of emergencies. It’s a way for us to give those incredibly valuable GIS insights and capabilities back to the folks we work with all the time. We know how critical the technology is to supporting our decision-making capability, so we want to ensure others have access to those abilities too.

Mark Wallace: Can you take us through how American Red Cross Hub may be used to improve interoperability between government organisations responding to a crisis?

Brian Keenum: Providing visibility on joint operations is a key element – such as highlighting where Emergency Services Management (ESM) assets are and where are our assets are to give a common operating picture and ensure we don’t duplicate efforts and waste precious time. It incorporates data from not only the fire departments but also our service delivery partners like the Salvation Army. For example, using the map we can determine where the Salvation Army fixed feeding sites may be, so we can determine where to deploy our mobile feeding sites. It really going to be key to optimizing our operations. We also collaborate closely with a number of technology partners, with groups like Noggin and Esri helping us develop the Disaster Action Team Dispatch system which manages how people get deployed to an incident.

Mark Wallace: How will the portal be used to keep the public informed?

Brian Keenum: I recently read a statistic from the Pew Research Center that 65 percent of Americans search online for information about their government, but less than 10 percent report finding what they need. When it’s launched in the coming months, the Hub will help address this problem, and allow us to inform the public and shape our message with them early on in disasters. We need to let the public know what we’re doing in a disaster response as early as possible and this portal will enable that. Initially, we’ll start out with sharing where the nearest shelter is, evacuation routes, and any other critical other resources that may be required. Then after the storm, it’s about providing updates on our ongoing service delivery – such as listing emergency supplies that have been distributed.

Watch Brian Keenum's Ozri 2018 presentation, explore more of his blogs and listen to his radio interviews here.   

This blog is a three-part series. Read other interviews with Brian, including: The GIS solution that’s changing traditional emergency response & recovery and A business case for establishing greater interagency operability during large-scale crises.