GeoOP Powers Student Army, Providing High Tech Aid to Volunteers

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Christchurch, February 22nd, 2011, at 12.51pm a 6.3 devastating earthquake rocked the city of Christchurch, New Zealand. Warranting one of the biggest disaster responses in local history. SaaSilia Ltd opened up their mobile workforce management software GeoOP to assist in the response, helping the public place over 3,500 requests for help.

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The GeoOP help request site became the single go-to point for people to submit non life-threatening requests for help.

Following Christchurch’s devastating earthquakes on 4 September 2010 and 22 February 2011, thousands of students from University of Canterbury banded together to help rebuild.

The UC Student Volunteer Army, lead by student organiser Sam Johnson, helped clear silt from the streets and properties around the area after the first earthquake. After the second quake hit Christchurch, the army quickly grew, helped by a large Facebook presence and the support and donations of companies worldwide.

SaaSilia Limited was one such company, donating their web-based dispatch and mobile workforce management software, GeoOP, to help manage the overwhelming work suddenly surrounding the SVA.

The software allowed team leaders to enter jobs into the system and dispatch volunteers. Armed with datacards supplied by 2degrees and Vodafone, three iPhone 4’s from Apple and ten Android (Sony Xperia X10) phones donated by Telecom, the team leaders could access GeoOP's advanced features. About fifty people used the mobile app, and volunteers received jobs via SMS. Leaders at the SVA set up a short code so people could reply to an SMS job with status updates using the GeoOP job reference number.

Students were subsequently able to update jobs on the go, add notes, tips and warnings to other volunteers and even take and share photos in the field. Central command could then track the progress of all teams throughout the region, and send them to their next task, depending on location.

Jobs like clearing debris, silt and even moving fallen shelves were updated in real time so office-based teams knew the status of all jobs in the system, and could therefore plan and send volunteers to other jobs where needed.

Christchurch residents were also urged to post on the site if they needed help or came across work appropriate for the SVA. The public could enter requests for help and a direct link was published on social media channels, local television, the GeoOP site and radio. These requests were then automatically entered into the system and addresses were geo-located so organisers could view the jobs on the GeoMap.

The help request site was an instant success. The URL had tens of thousands of hits and over 3,500 requests were processed and dispatched. This was the first time in history a single database of needs following a natural disaster had been created. GeoOP was the interface linking victims of the Christchurch earthquake with those who could provide help.

Using this incredible interface, teams were then efficiently dispatched in groups of up to 100 people, depending on the task at hand. “We’ve been taking phone calls and emails every minute for the last 48 hours,” said Louis Brown of the Te Waipounamu Foundation, “This is really going to streamline the process of getting help from our volunteers to people in a really optimum and effective way.”

Not only did the effectiveness of the SVA save New Zealand millions of dollars in clean up and labour cost, but GeoOP’s ability to deploy volunteers in minutes meant a level of visibility and accurate up-to-the-minute information, allowing thousands more jobs to be processed and completed. Using the GeoOP system meant clean up was smoother, faster and better organised. This productive restoration of Christchurch continues today and in the wake of the Tokyo disaster, volunteers in Japan are following the example of Christchurch’s SVA, creating hope for a quicker and more resourceful rebuild.

Nicholas Bartlett, CEO of SaaSilia Limited, said, “The GeoOP help request site became the single go-to point for people to submit non life-threatening requests for help, contributing to the amazing outcome Sam and his army achieved. The results were just absolutely profound.”

About GeoOP:

GeoOP is a dispatch and mobile workforce management system that is used in twenty-four countries around the world in a range of industries from freight, trades, IT support, audio visual, maintenance, security, and many other industry with a mobile workforce.


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Nicholas Bartlett
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