Since 2008, the Information Technology Disaster Resource Center (ITDRC) has used technology to connect survivors and first responders during crises. With a cache of technology equipment, deployment capabilities and implementation services, the nonprofit organization of volunteer IT professionals provides US communities with technical resources to quickly get critical care to citizens and aid in recovery efforts.
When disaster strikes, ITDRC is there, deploying the technology and services communities need to establish network connectivity, and effectively coordinate recovery efforts. Often, there’s a delay from a disaster striking and internet connectivity being restored due to terrestrial network outages, whether cellular or wireline. In the interim, communities often must go without helpful online resources, or suffer with bandwidth-restrictive connectivity options to attempt to utilize data rich applications for imagery or mapping.
ITDRC began thinking about ways to close this gap of accessing critical information. The nonprofit asked itself, what if there was a way to give survivors and responders access to online information even when connectivity was down?
That’s when Amazon Web Services (AWS) introduced the nonprofit to the AWS Snowball Edge, a data transfer device with on-board Amazon S3-compatible storage and compute to support running AWS Lambda functions and Amazon EC2 instances locally. As storage requirements scale up and down, multiple AWS Snowball Edge devices can be easily clustered to create a local storage tier with increased durability for applications at petabyte-scale.
ITDRC wanted to see if a Snowball Edge could be pre-loaded with massive amounts of disaster-related information, data sets, and applications shipped to communities before or just after a natural disaster. If this was the case, citizens and responders would no longer be impeded by a lack of internet connectivity.
WWT installed and configured a Snowball Edge device with Splunk Enterprise and relevant, pre-defined data sources to create an Amazon Machine Image (AMI).
Using the data analytics and correlation capabilities of Splunk, the AMI pulls in response data applicable to disasters like tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, wildfires or earthquakes. Sources include street maps, feeds from traffic cameras, and the location of food banks and public safety resources.
Once deployed, the Snowball Edge can ingest data from more sources to present images showing a disaster’s spread.
In situations when state or federal regulations require a level of network access control to verify authorization and posture of end-users device, additional capabilities like WWT’s Continuous Compliance Solution can be added to the device to further the effectiveness of the deployment.
WWT’s solution will allow Amazon to pre-configure Snowball Edge devices specific to hazards that may affect certain communities. ITDRC can then deploy those devices to communities before, or immediately after, disaster strikes.
With the pre-loaded data that will be available to them, communities will be able to connect to multiple nonprofits, more easily navigate geographies that have been altered as a result of a natural disaster, and quickly get citizens in touch with health and safety services.
Equally exciting is the potential integration WWT’s Mobile Field Kit (MFK), an IoT sensor and threat detection platform. When deployed with a Snowball Edge, MFK can help track everything from the vital signs of responders to chemical hazards that may result from the spread of a disaster.
WWT’s AMI optimized for the Snowball Edge will be an invaluable technology in the already impressive lineup of technology ITDRC uses to protect communities in harm’s way.