How We Got Started
Sahana is an open source Disaster Management System (DMS) that was created in the aftermath of the 2004 Asian Tsunami. It is a web based IT system that addresses the common coordination problems that arise during a disaster, from finding missing people to organizing refugee camps to managing volunteers.
The Sahana project became known to us in January 2006, at a time when we were considering how best to address two challenges posed by ACM president David Patterson. First, in response to the ongoing crisis in CS enrollments, Patterson called for computer science educators to try new approaches, such as getting involved in the open source movement. Second, in the aftermath of Katrina, Patterson made a call in his weekly CACM column for computer scientists to help our neighbors. Patterson's thought was that through using our computing and IT skills to help our communities in times of need, we would improve the image of the computing discipline and draw more students into our classrooms.
As an humanitarian open source IT system, Sahana seemed a perfect platform to explore both initiatives. During a spring 2006 independent study, we determined that our students were able to adapt easily to Sahana's LAMP (Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP) architecture, and they enjoyed the challenge of working on a real open source project. In summer 2006 a small group from Trinity teamed up with IT volunteers from Accenture Corporation to design and build a Volunteer Management (VM) module for Sahana, the main function of which is to support the registration of relief volunteers and their assignment to projects. A prototype of the VM module was field tested in June 2006 at the Strong Angel III Disaster Response Demonstration in San Diego. In the summer of 2007 five students from Trinity College and Connecticut College rebuilt the Volunteer module, which can be found in Sahana version 0.6, with continued contributions to the project upto this date.