Join us this week as we interview Carl Williams from Peace Boat, an international non-governmental and non-profit organization that works to promote peace, human rights, equal and sustainable development and respect for the environment. XCom Global recently teamed up with Peace Boat to offer all international emergency personal unlimited access to network services under their Wi-Fi for Disaster Relief program.
1. Can you tell us a bit about Peace Boat and the nature of your work?
Carl: Peace Boat is an international non-governmental and non-profit organization in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. The organization works to promote peace, human rights, equal and sustainable development and respect for the environment through global educational programs, cooperative projects and advocacy activities on global peace voyages. As part of its wider peace building activities, Peace Boat has carried out disaster relief activities since 1995. Peace Boat began its disaster relief work following the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake (Kobe, 1995) and since then has provided disaster relief assistance in Japan and around the world. Following the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011, Peace Boat established the Peace Boat Disaster Relief Volunteer Center (PBV) to focus on emergency relief, specializing in the training, dispatch and coordination of volunteers to support disaster stricken areas around the globe including a deployment to New York following hurricane Sandy.
My work with Peace Boat has developed from a field volunteer providing cleanup and sheltering of survivors during the initial response in Tohoku to an advisory Disaster Preparedness Planner. As a university educated computer science major and emergency manager, and experienced US Air Force disaster and contingency planner, I was invited in October to lead ongoing efforts to develop disaster IT standards in Japan.
XCom Global’s support has been central to my relief actions during my stay in Japan over the last two years.
2. How does XCom Global play a role into Peace Boat’s mission & operations?
Carl: XCom Global understands that even in this age of rising prosperity and in Japan, a country known for its advanced technology, nature is still the ultimate power and can bring us to our knees during a disaster. The earthquake and tsunami resulted in thousands of deaths and billions of dollars in damage. Vast communities were without power and communication capabilities which left us unable to properly deploy relief until alternate means of communication were established.
Given the scale of the challenges faced by responding international teams to Japan, XCom Global offered all international emergency personal unlimited access to network services while conducting relief operations in Japan. The inescapable fact is that XCom Global, a private sector firm, had a critical role to play and quickly assisted by getting help where that it was disparately needed.
Without XCom Global technology contribution and business model of hardened communication infrastructures and elements of “resilient operating systems”, many of our emergency managers would have been helpless to save lives or affect recovery efforts effectively. We did what was needed and in every manner that mattered. XCom Global provided the technologies to link networks, scale data analysis and provide decision-makers the timely information which guide responses.
3. What types of activities does Peace Boat do using XCom Global’s devices?
Carl: In the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, PBV immediately dispatched personnel to the disaster-stricken areas. Volunteers commenced relief activities in two of the worst affected areas, the cities of Ishinomaki and Onagawa in Miyagi Prefecture. As we enter into the third year mark since the disaster, the number of volunteers and organizations in the affected areas continue to wane; however we still have the support and understanding of XCom Global. PBV will continue working closely with the local people along this long path to recovery.
In Fukushima Prefecture, where the nuclear power plant accident and its consequences are still very much a reality, we provide recreational and educational programs. These programs are directed at children and young adults by connecting Fukushima to the rest of the world.
4. How does your organization use social media channels as part of its overall strategy? What impact has social media had on your operations?
Carl: Just last month I sponsored a Japanese research team through regions of the US stricken by recent disasters. The team from NHK, Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai, Japan Broadcasting Corporation is Japan’s national public broadcasting organization is reporting on the use of social media during the disaster cycle.
A visit to our online communities will reveal compelling stories of how the use of social media helped response, relief and recovery efforts in Japan. Parts of the social media efforts assisted with disseminating vital information, to organize volunteer efforts, and attract donations to help with the overall process.
Perhaps the most poignant of these stories reported on Facebook was where a friend of Peace Boat described our information as “key” to recovery and providing a strong understanding of where her skills and efforts were mostly needed. “You couldn’t get out to the city to see what was happening, but you had eyes in Facebook,” said this early member of a kick-off team which dispatched to the area within days of the disaster. The internet became instrumental of harnessing virtual volunteers and in raising money for relief and recovery. Reporting and accountability happened in real time with updates through our use of social media.
5. What goals does Peace Boat have in mind for the future?
Peace Boat participates in a cross-sector emergency relief exercises in Shizuoka Prefecture, where the Great Tokai Earthquake is predicted to occur. This is a joint exercise, held every year since 2005, between governmental, semi-governmental and civil society groups simulating the response after a major earthquake in the area.
XCom Global’s gift of connectivity supports these exercises by putting the right set of tools in the hands of our invited international volunteer staff. The strict rules of ownership in Japan and high cost of obtaining connectivity is no longer an issue for visiting participants working to strengthen disaster recovery.
6. To wrap it up, would you like to say anything to your supporters?
Carl: We truly appreciate all continued involvement and supporter of PBV’s activities. The generosity and caring continues to help us assist those affected by disasters around the world.