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College Students Develop Application for New York Emergency Evacuation Plan


Press Release, Trinity College Hartford, Conn. – Summer student interns in the Humanitarian Free Open Source Software (HFOSS) program, from Trinity College (Conn.), Wesleyan University, and the University of Connecticut, recently developed a software application to assist with crisis prevention efforts in New York City.  The program, “Virtual EOC,” was built on the Trinity campus from the ground up in two weeks, and is aimed at facilitating convenient and organized online communication between more than thirty agencies in the event of a disaster in the City.
Category: announcement
Posted by: Trishan
Project Part of Larger HFOSS Effort to Benefit Humanity

Hartford, Conn. – Summer student interns in the Humanitarian Free Open Source Software (HFOSS) program, from Trinity College (Conn.), Wesleyan University, and the University of Connecticut, recently developed a software application to assist with crisis prevention efforts in New York City.  The program, “Virtual EOC,” was built on the Trinity campus from the ground up in two weeks, and is aimed at facilitating convenient and organized online communication between more than thirty agencies in the event of a disaster in the City.

John Berglund, Emergency Services Director, The Salvation Army, speaks at a

VOAD disaster exercise in New York City.  Students, Dimitar Vasilev Gochev '11
(Trinity College), Eli Fox-Epstein '11 (Wesleyan University), and Samuel
DeFabbia-Kane '11 (Wesleyan University) were in attendance.

The project is part of a greater HFOSS initiative that was launched in 2006 through funding from the Directorate for Computing & Information Science & Engineering (CISE) of The National Science Foundation (NSF) under its Pathways to Revitalized Undergraduate Computing Education program (CPATH). The goal of the HFOSS program is to build a community of academic computing departments, IT corporations, and local and global humanitarian and community organizations dedicated to building and using free and open source software (FOSS) to benefit humanity.  FOSS is software that is distributed under licenses that allow it to be freely adapted, modified, and redistributed.  The HFOSS program was created by computer scientists at Trinity, Wesleyan, and Connecticut College.
In developing Virtual EOC, students worked closely with collaborators from the NYC-Office of Emergency Management, Salvation Army and other VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) groups. The application was used as part of a disaster exercise in New York City for the city’s VOAD community. The program went live on June 5th and four of the projects leaders attended the exercise with VOAD representatives, in which the program was praised for its professionalism and quality.

“They did an incredible job, and they did it in a short period of time,” John Berglund, Emergency Services Director, The Salvation Army, said. “It is very impressive.”

Students Dimitar Vasilev Gochev '11 (Trinity College), Eli Fox-Epstein '11 (Wesleyan University), and Samuel DeFabbia-Kane '11 (Wesleyan University) are the core of the student group that constructed the application, while students Qianqian Lin (Wesleyan University), and Antonio Alcorn (University of Connecticut) contributed to the project under the guidance of  Trishan R. de Lanerolle (Trinity College), HFOSS Project Director, and Ralph Morelli, Professor of Computer Science at Trinity. 

Virtual EOC is one of several projects that interns at the HFOSS Program have been working on this summer as part of the 2009 HFOSS Summer Institute (http://2009.hfoss.org).  The group also developed the volunteer management module for the Sahana system (www.sahana.lk), a web based collaboration tool that addresses the common coordination problems during a disaster from finding missing people, managing aid, managing volunteers, and tracking camps effectively between government groups, the civil society (NGOs) and the victims themselves. Another inter-institutional group of students is currently developing POSIT, a portable open search and identification tool, for the Google Android phone, an application that will allow rescue workers to use the phone's GPS, camera, online database, and communication technology to assist in disaster recovery efforts.

Other summer projects include a disease ontology mapping application to help in the early detection of various diseases and pandemic outbreaks, as part of the Innovative Support to Emergencies, Diseases and Disasters [InSTEDD www.instedd.org] project and the development of computer accessibility tools for people with disabilities for the GNOME  Desktop (www.gnome.org) Accessibility Project.

“These projects show that computer science is not just sitting in a cubicle encoding,” de Lanerolle said.  “These are impactful real-world projects.”

For additional information about the application, or for a complete list of summer projects, visit http://2009.hfoss.org. For more background on the HFOSS program, visit http://www.hfoss.org or contact Trishan R. de Lanerolle at Trishan.deLanerolle@trincoll.edu.