Somerset Emergency Volunteers and the Somerset floods.
The consequences of the awful floods in Somerset over the winter of 2013/14 are still being felt. Some homes are still not habitable.
The task of organising the overwhelming support and help fell on the shoulders of individual volunteers who were there. Purely because they acted quicker and more decisively, and had better networks, than existing official structures. They used whatever method they had available – bits of paper, phones, spreadsheets, memory… Nothing was joined up. The biggest lesson from the floods (apart from the flooding in the first place) was that the organisational chaos should never happen again.
Somerset County Council approached the head of Mendip Community Support, Paula Blight, and asked her to to set up a more holistic robust approach. SEV – Somerset Emergency Volunteers was formed. It had the task of pulling together the myriad streams of help; organisations, companies, labour, donations, materials, tasks, damage, jobs…
And one of the first things SEV acted upon was commissioning their own bespoke database. Based upon the flexibility of an iPad and FileMaker’s ability to utilise ‘information at the point of use’. See the story on YouTube.
Within a few weeks, the bits of paper and adhoc spreadsheets recording the damage to property had been replaced with one central database. This was made available via iPads and WebDirect (FileMaker’s way of making it’s data available via web browsers). Each property is approached and it’s details recorded – contacts, temporary accommodation, agencies involved, damage sustained, work needed to be done, etc. Photos are taken on site using the iPad and are stored directly in the database along with any emails or scanned documents or pdfs.
Other volunteers back in the office, are able to utilise this collated data to allocate jobs and materials.