Supporting disaster relief and reconstruction across the globe

Disasters can devastate even the most prepared cities, and nowhere is that more evident than with Hurricane Sandy. Sandy is the latest in a series of natural events that has reminded governments of all sizes around the world of the importance of disaster preparedness. In each case, were it not for the careful planning and quick thinking of emergency responders, law enforcement, and government officials, the devastation and aftermath could have been even worse. Technology can play a critical role in helping emergency responders and city, regional, and national government officials plan for – and respond to – disasters of all scales across the globe.

Many coastal municipalities on the eastern seaboard of the United States face the yearly challenges that hurricane season brings, and on much smaller budgets. One such municipality is the town of Holden Beach in North Carolina, which grows from 575 residents to over 20,000 during the summer vacation months. During inclement weather, officials need to be able communicate with residents and guests both on – and off – the island. To do this, town leaders decided to move its IT operations to a cloud environment. Employees can now use voice-enabled technologies to access the public switched telephone network (PSTN) through a Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunk, meaning that whether they’re at the emergency center on the island or heading inland to get out of harm’s way, officials can keep homeowners and vacationers connected to the government, while still complying with security protocols.

On the other side of the world, the prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, and Ibaraki were seriously affected by the major earthquake last year. Immediately after the earthquake hit, agencies at all levels of government devoted themselves to the relief and reconstruction effort. Over 500 support programs were developed, but because these programs were individually run, it was difficult for disaster victims to find the most useful information that pertained to the damage they experienced.

To solve this issue, The Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) worked in cooperation with the Reconstruction Agency and others to create the Recovery and Reconstruction Support Program Database. Leaders chose to host this in the cloud because of its ability to scale up and down, depending on the number of site visitors. Time is of the essence in bringing relief to disaster victims, and METI was able to build the database in a short period of time, because it immediately accessed server resources and utilized the development skills its staff already had.

While it’s difficult to predict when a disaster will strike, taking adequate steps to prepare your IT infrastructure can ensure a smoother response when it does. To learn more about disaster preparedness, I encourage you to check out our website to learn more.

Have a comment or opinion on this post? Let me know @Microsoft_Gov. Have a question for the author? Please e-mail us at

Michele Bedford Thistle
Business Manager, Government, National Security, and International Organizations, Worldwide Public Sector

About the Author

Michele Bedford Thistle | Business Manager, Government, National Security, and International Organizations, Worldwide Public Sector

Michele is focused on sharing stories from government customers creating real impact for citizens, employees, economies, and students. She joined the worldwide team from Microsoft Canada, where she was also marketing lead for several technology start-ups. Read More