2010 Haiti Earthquake
On January 12 2010 a 6.7m earthquake struck Haiti, killing 250,000 and leaving over 300,000 injured. Despite the unprecedented effort mounted by the international aid community, access to medical care for survivors and emergency supply distribution remained an enormous challenge. After establishing contact with personnel on the ground, Help.NGO founder Adam Marlatt went through the Dominican Republic and crossed into Haiti by land. Using the skills he learned as a Marine to facilitate emergency patient transport, critical supply delivery, and large-scale food drops, Help.NGO – then known as Global DIRT – was born.
Facilitating logistics for the broader recovery, Help.NGO deployed an all-volunteer crew of prior military personnel and civilian subject matter experts to begin moving excess supplies to those places that needed them most, as well as identifying local supply access to gasoline, jet fuel, IV medications, and oxygen. Help.NGO facilitated the emergency resupply of hospitals and air medical evacuation centers across Port Au Prince.
The team also developed a direct aid distribution model, moving 1.5 million lbs of food, water, medicine, and clothing to schools and orphanages across Haiti in a single day via small vehicles donated by local NGOs. This model was eventually scaled and implemented by the United Nations World Food Programme (UNWFP) to move 10 million lbs of humanitarian assistance meals-ready-to-eat (MREs).
As a part of ongoing operations in Haiti, Help.NGO responded to the 2012 cholera outbreak in a number of capacities. Medical personnel filled night shifts at St. Nicholas hospital filling in for Doctors Without Borders and at the only cholera treatment center in Wharf Jeremie outside Cite Soleil. When NGO movement was restricted due to election violence, Help.NGO Subject Matter Experts pushed on, covering hospital shifts other NGOs found themselves unable to access. Help.NGO also partnered with Heliaviation, a German helicopter company, leveraging a BO-105CBS4 aircraft to conduct helicopter reconnaissance in rural Haiti. The operations allowed for the identification of disease spread as well as the disbursing of water purification supplies.
In the summer of 2010, flooding of historic proportions created a lake the size of Great Britain, displacing millions of people in the Sindh, Punjab, and Balochistan regions of Pakistan. With clean water resources dwindling to non-existent, thousands were left exposed to a disease from a lack of potable water at temporary camps. International Medical Assistance Teams (IMAT) and Canadian Medical Assistance Teams (CMAT) deployed personnel to aid survivors at camps run by Pakistani NGO VNEEDU. As a partner of IMAT & CMAT, Help.NGO’s operation began by deploying a water assessment team, medical personnel, and potable water, security, and language subject matter experts with a NOAH Water purifier. The team arrived in Karachi and made contact with local partners before moving deep into Sindh Province to identify a strategic location for the water filter. The filter, which produces over 137,000 L of water per day, was eventually transitioned to local partner VNEEDU for further deployment. The team also worked with VNEEDU to ensure the placement of dozens of ground wells.
2011 New Zealand
A magnitude-7.2 earthquake hit Christchurch, New Zealand in February 2011 that destroyed the city’s Central Business District (CBD) and caused hundreds of thousands of tons of liquefaction. In response, Help.NGO mobilized an assessment team equipped with a 10,000 L per day water filter. Traveling across the CBD with Geographic Information System (GIS)-enabled cameras, Help.NGO’s assessment team mapped out infrastructure damage and relayed information back to relevant partners. These included the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), New Zealand Civil Defense, and the Christ Church Volunteer Army Foundation. This data, along with thousands of crowd-sourced reports, was entered into the USHAHIDI platform to provide a near real time operational picture of the disaster zone. In partnership with the Christ Church Volunteer Army Foundation, Help.NGO logistics personnel also helped organize thousands of volunteers to clear out liquefaction by hand throughout the city. The needs management model and large-scale coordination plan for volunteer management that was developed out of our response in New Zealand would later be used in response to Super Storm Sandy.
2011 Japan Tsunami
On the 11th of March 2011, the fourth largest earthquake in recorded history occurred off the coast of Japan. The tsunami that followed devastated Japan's Tohoku region. Having just demobilized from operations in New Zealand, Help.NGO placed eight USAR K-9s on standby after initial coordination with the Japanese government and United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Due to the incident unfolding at the Fukushima Daiichi 1 Nuclear Power Plant, the team refocused its mission and reached out to the Department of Energy and the U.S. Embassy in Japan to offer radiation monitoring, mapping, as well as sourced and donated radiation detectors. Securing a high-powered SAM 940 Radiation Isotope Identifier, assessments tracking type and strength of radiation were conducted from 70 km to the fence line of the plant immediately upon arrival. This data was given to the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA). Japan’s Ministry of Sports Science and Technology, who was managing the incident, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Help.NGO’s data found pockets of radiation sitting outside the 25-km exclusion zone, leading the Japanese government to expand the exclusion zone and as well as further evacuations from safter locations, saving tens of thousands of residents from harmful exposure. In an effort to inform the public about potential hazards, Help.NGO partnered with local partners such as Tokyo Hackerspace and SafeCast to perform ongoing monitoring and assessments. The team also coordinated with the U.S. Embassy, Berkeley Nucleonics, the Japanese government, and the state of Illinois to donate over 3,000 personal radiation detection devices.
2012 Haiti Port Au Prince EMS Development & Implementation
Ambulance services in Port-au-Prince were nearly non-existent prior to the earthquake. A particularly tragic multi-car accident killing 32 and injuring nearly 100, however, was the catalyst for the Haitian government to develop plans for the Centre Ambulancier National (CAN) program under the Ministry of Help. When it came to choosing trainers and advisors, Haitian government officials turned to Help.NGO. After developing a curriculum for emergency medical services (EMS) customized for the unique challenges in Haiti, Help.NGO subject matter experts trained over 75 personnel to a first responder level by the summer of 2012. In 2013, the project expanded to include the development of a helicopter tourism program, the aircraft from which served as a mode of standby medical flights to accommodate additional medical coverage in northern and southern Haiti. Port-au-Prince ambulances now respond via central dispatch accessed by dialing 116 and are equipped with backboards, oxygen, AEDs, and trauma supplies.
2012 Super Storm Sandy
Help.NGO responded to Hurricane Sandy first in Haiti and then in New York City. The team began tracking the storm as it headed towards a Help.NGO team stationed in Port-au-Prince. After a week of response, the situation had stabilized, and Help.NGO subject matter experts traveled to New York City, which was facing unprecedented flooding streets, wind damage, and power issues. Initial assessments identified a critical need for interagency coordination, a reliable form of digital communication, and the identification of needs at an individual family-unit level so they could be connected with the appropriate group. Help.NGO then brought in team members and associates from partner organizations around the globe to scale up response operations. This included members of the Volunteer Army Foundation of New Zealand, IT assistance from Boston and Ireland, and additional personnel pulled from Help.NGO’s team in Haiti.
2013 Philippines Typhoon
On November 3rd, Super Typhoon Haiyan formed in the Pacific Ocean with the fastest wind speed ever recorded. Help.NGO subject matter experts prepared to respond to the Philippines with all available assets and stood up an assessment and communications team arriving as soon as flights resumed. As the aftermath of the storm became clear, Help.NGO deployed medical and K-9 rescue teams to Tacloban City, Philippines while the other teams produced damage assessments of the impact zone. Help.NGO communications teams deployed large-scale communications assets donated from CISCO, GATR, and New Spirit Alliance, and coordinated relief flights of medical personnel. The team also facilitated last-mile delivery of mission-critical supplies via a helicopter.
K9 SAR Operations
The Help.NGO Search and Rescue K-9 team was the first international SAR team to arrive in-country and provide support locating victims in the debris. After the initial two-week deployment, Help.NGO was again requested by the government to re-deploy K-9 assets to augment the Human Remains Collection Task Force, deploying additional personnel and human remains detection (HRD) dogs.
2015 Nepal Earthquake
On the 25th of April 2015, a magnitude-7.9 earthquake struck Nepal, killing over 3,500 people and leaving over 8 million people displaced and in need of medical supplies, food, and shelter. Help.NGO took a three-pronged approach: deploying an Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) to assist in coordination with UN personnel, a human remains detection K9 team, and medical technicians to support the ongoing relief effort of the Government of Nepal. UAS data was then distributed to local and international partners for analysis and planning purposes in debris management, CCCM, and humanitarian aid distribution.
2016 Mediterranean Rescue
Since the Arab Spring in 2011 the Mediterranean Sea has become one of the dangerous border crossings in the world. In 2016, as crossings were increasing in number and risk, Help.NGO deployed two rotations of rescue teams. Leveraging a roster of SMEs specializing in technical rescue and rescue swimming, Help.NGO SMEs used rigid hull inflatable boats aboard the LifeBoat Minden to assist those in distress, coordinating with UN officials, other NGOs, and the Maritime Rescue Coordination Center in Rome.
2017 US Virgin Islands
The US Virgin Islands saw major infrastructural damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma and Maria during the fall of 2017. Help.NGO immediately deployed its Disaster Immediate Response Team (DIRT) to St. John. In partnership with St John Rescue, the team handled key logistics during the relief stage and coordinated with other organizations on the ground to help meet infrastructure, health, debris clearing, energy, housing, and communications needs. Help.NGO also partnered with the local organization Love City Strong in St. John on a large-scale canvassing project, visiting every structure on the island and surveying the needs of the people at a regular cadence. The team partnered with Cubic Mission Solutions GATR technology, NetHope, Cisco, Google, and Facebook to provide internet connectivity where it was needed. The team also worked extensively with Vanu Inc. to provide cellular communications.
Alongside its work in USVI As a part of Help.NGO’s broader response to hurricane Ida and Maria in 2017, Help.NGO responded in Puerto Rico in a similar modality. In coordination with Cubic Mission Solutions and GATR, Help.NGO connectivity teams provided key communications infrastructure to affected communities across the entire Puerto Rican commonwealth, allowing them to reconnect with family as well as communicate with responding agencies so they could receive life-saving assistance.
2017 Hurricane Harvey
As the strongest hurricane to hit Texas since Hurricane Carla in 1961, and one of the only two U.S. hurricanes to prompt an extreme wind warning, Hurricane Harvey hit the coast of Texas in August 2017. Reservoirs dealt with unprecedented strain, giving a preview of the sort of devastation that would arrive if any one of them were to break. Estimated damages stand at an unprecedented $125 billion. In response, Help.NGO mobilized its Red Team to Houston and Port Arthur, Texas equipped with swift water rescue units, thermal imagery, unmanned aerial vehicles, and communications gear. Operating with Zodiac and NRS swift water rescue rafts which are operated by certified swift water rescue technicians from our US regional hubs, Help.NGO subject matter experts engaged in extensive search and rescue operations in the affected areas.
2018-2019 UAS Capacity Building in Mozambique, Colombia, Madagascar, Bolivia, Ethiopia, Haiti, and El Salvador
Throughout 2018-2019, Help.NGO partnered with WFP to deliver a series of drone workshops globally helping public sector personnel understand how drones and drone imagery can be used in the wake of and in preparation for emergencies. Built on the original coordination workshop conducted by WFP and Help.NGO personnel with support from the Government of Belgium in December 2017, the training workshop featured three modules: Let’s COORDINATE, on strengthening cooperation between national and international stakeholders; Let’s FLY, a practical flight exercise; and Let’s MAP on processing data. These trainings brought together government, academic, and humanitarian organizations providing hands-on training and experience with UAS mapping, processing, and flight coordination. Locations included Mozambique, Colombia, Madagascar, Bolivia, Ethiopia, Haiti, and El Salvador.
After Cyclones Idai and Kenneth struck Mozambique in 2019, Help.NGO assisted WFP and the ETC (Emergency Telecommunications Cluster) in the first deployment of drones in an emergency response. Working with the Mozambican National Institute for Disaster Management (INGC) and following on from trainings both in Mozambique as well as the South–South collaboration between personnel in Mozambique, Eswatini, and Madagascar, Help.NGO Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) leveraged drones to help fulfill requests from the humanitarian community. These included the production of high-resolution imagery of the city of Beira, critical infrastructure analysis in 3D, GPS coordinate identification via collation of GeoTagged images, population density analysis, and standing water analysis.
2019 Bahamas Dorian Response
As the most intense cyclone to ever strike the Bahamas, Hurricane Dorian struck Abaco as a Category 5 storm on September 1, 2019. Alongside connectivity and VSAT provision within the broader emergency context, Help.NGO leveraged subject matter experts in the wake of the storm to provide expertise, guidance, and assistance to local community leaders in directing the relief and recovery effort on Elbow Cay, Abaco, the Bahamas. Help.NGO also implemented a debris clearance intervention in coordination with UNDP, as well as providing volumetric analysis of debris piles allowing for program oversight and progress tracking.
Help.NGO’s response to Dorian also featured field collaboration between AWS and Help.NGO subject matter experts. It marks the first use of 2x AWS Snowball Edge to augment Help.NGO’s UAS drone imagery processing pipeline. AWS SMEs were deployed to the Bahamas to assist Help.NGO personnel in ensuring successful deployment of this cutting-edge hardware solution. The introduction of SBE technology to Help.NGO’s existing UAS processing pipeline has allowed for a 14x improvement in processing throughput, vastly exceeding previous pipeline capabilities and more rapidly producing high-resolution actionable data for humanitarian personnel.
2020 Louisiana Hurricane
Being the strongest storm to hit Louisiana in 150 years, Laura made landfall in Cameron, Louisiana on August 29th as a category 4 storm. With operations focusing on connectivity provision, Help.NGO deployed VSAT internet connectivity in coordination with private sector partners to a number of strategically important locations including 3 hospitals and rural supply distribution points. UAS imagery was also gathered of damaged areas in both Lake Charles and Cameron Parish.
2020 Honduras Hurricane
Hurricane Iota made landfall late Monday November 6th 2020 near Haulover, Nicaragua as a Category 4 storm with winds of up to 155 mph. Just weeks prior, category 4 hurricane Eta made impact just 15 miles south. Despite evacuations, both storms combined to leave more than 600,000 affected families in the Honduras representing a total of 4 million people affected—approximately 50% of the population—with the northern and western parts of the country most effected. Both storms left extensive damage to physical infrastructure, communications networks, and internet service.
Thanks to the generous funding from ISOC, Help.NGO was able to respond to these needs in both a remote and on-the-ground fashion. Remotely, 4 Humanitarian Open Street mapathons were conducted in coordination with AWS Disaster Response Team volunteers as well as the entire Humanitarian Open Street Map (OSM) open-source community, producing improved baseline imagery accessible to the broader humanitarian community. Working in concert with local partners on the ground like the Honduran chapter of the ICRC and Telecoms Sans Frontieres (TSF), Help.NGO subject matter experts set up LTE points of presence with a focus on schools doubling as migrant and IDP shelters in San Pedro Sula.
2020-2021 COVID Response
The COVID-19 pandemic has posed major challenges to humanitarian operations across the globe, but it hasn’t stopped Help.NGO. With funding support from AWS DRT, Help.NGO engaged with Amazon Business and Amazon Italy to rapidly procure COVID-19 prevention materials in the early phases of the pandemic. Procured and distributed materials included 4,000 hand sanitizers, reusable masks, and 600 thermometers for WFP, FAO, and IFAD staff in the WFP HQ in Rome. Help.NGO was able to distribute the necessary materials, immediately allowing humanitarian aid workers and UN administrators to continue their important work. Around 600 rapid test kits were also procured and distributed to the WFP Ethiopia Country Office in Addis Ababa during the height of international demand to support the field hospital established in Ethiopia by WFP for UN and NGO humanitarian workers who contracted COVID-19 while on duty.
Thanks to the generous funding support from the Internet Society Foundation (ISOC), Help.NGO identified an overwhelming need for connectivity in ad hoc locations set up globally to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. ISOC made it possible for Help.NGO to assemble critical connectivity resources for over 1,000 healthcare workers across four continents, supporting their response and treatment of tens of thousands of patients. Help.NGO SMEs established over 150 internet connectivity sites and internet points of presence across 7 countries, responded to the sudden Delta variant providing emergency connectivity to over 100 ambulances and other emergency vehicles with local partners in India, and continued to expand connectivity in Haiti where civil unrest combined with a new wave of COVID-19 infections to strain the Haitian healthcare system.
2021 Haiti Earthquake
In the wake of the devastating earthquake that hit Les Cayes, Haiti in the Western part of the island, Help.NGO mobilized local Help.NGO personnel in Haiti as well as international personnel from the United States and Poland to respond. A total of 25 internet LTE PoP (points of presence) were deployed for affected communities and medical facilities, with 10 allocated for the UN and coordination bodies providing secure telecoms for the international humanitarian response. UAS assessments were also performed at strategic locations upon the request of the DPC (Haitian Civil Protection Agency), with that data guiding the government’s broader response strategy to a disaster that left 650,000 in need of assistance.
2021 Kentucky Tornado
Mid-way through a 10-day table-top turned field exercise between Help.NGO and Amazon Web Services Disaster Response Programme (AWS DRT), a series of catastrophic tornadoes the likes of which Kentucky had never seen tore through four states wreaking devastation to cities and towns scattered across more than 200 miles. In less than 24 hours after the storm struck and within 6 hours of the formal request for assistance, the combined team was already on the move, arriving on the ground and standing up operations in 48 hours. The team linked up with other strategic partners including Verizon’s Crisis Response team and Intelsat, bringing connectivity equipment to get first responders and affected communities back online. Help.NGO deployed a 1.2 m GATR satellite antenna running on the Intelsat flex ground network as an internet backhaul for Verizon. This allowed Verizon to extend their network into the rural neighborhood of East Morson. Equipped with subject matter experts assembled from Help.NGO’s global offices in Haiti, Poland and the Philippines, the team also provided high-resolution UAS mapping to local authorities in Marshall County, which was later leveraged to guide the broader response and rebuilding effort.
2022 Brazil Landslides
In February 2022, Petrópolis in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, experienced its worst rainfall since 1932, leading to over 230 deaths from floods and landslides. After a request for aid from the local Secretary of Economic Development, Energy, and International Relations, Help.NGO and Amazon Web Services Disaster Response Team (AWS DRT) geared up to provide technical support. Help.NGO experts used Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) to map the affected area in 2D and 3D, providing maps for local authorities to more effectively respond to present and future landslides in the mountainous region. AWS Snow devices generated high-resolution maps in real-time, enabling Help.NGO's SMEs to operate from any location.
2022 Florida Hurricane
Hurricane Ian, a Category 4 storm, struck Southwest Florida on September 28. The storm caused widespread flooding and winds with speeds reaching up to 155 mph, resulting in staggering destruction across entire districts, islands, and coastlines, and leaving nearly 140 fatalities in its wake. In response, Help.NGO and the Amazon Web Services Disaster Response Team (AWS DRT) partnered to provide emergency connectivity to nearly 100 vulnerable locations including emergency operation centers, charities, and other non-profit organizations supporting affected communities and high-speed, low-latency connectivity to first responders in the worst-hit area of Fort Myers Beach. By utilizing mobile Starwin and Starlink terminals, cloud computing tools, and advanced LEO, MEO, and GEO connectivity, Help.NGO and AWS DRT enabled effective response and recovery efforts, enabling first responders and helping communities in Southwest Florida rebuild and recover.
On February 24th after the invasion of Ukraine, in collaboration with our partners at Amazon Web Services (AWS), Help.NGO activated a standby roster of personnel and prepositioned Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) at humanitarian logistics hubs. As the only United Nations Standby Partner based in a bordering country with Ukraine, we swiftly activated to provide administrative and logistical support to the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the Global Logistics Cluster (GLC). Our team deployed a hub in Poland, where NGOs, UN Agencies, and the private sector could collaborate, coordinate, and deploy assistance. Our collaboration with AWS allowed us to deploy innovative technical solutions that have been used by humanitarian actors throughout Poland, Moldova, and Ukraine. The use of end-to-end encryption and secure messaging solutions across edge devices bolstered by the AWS cloud facilitated a constant and secure connection for humanitarians in the field. Providing connectivity to over 300 humanitarians from over 50 local and international organizations, Help.NGO continues to deliver critical assistance to Ukrainians suffering from war and displacement. This includes an ongoing ‘comfort convoy’ program providing food, drink, and power to Ukrainians as they continue to recover.
2023 Türkiye Earthquake
The catastrophic earthquake that struck Türkiye and Syria in the winter of 2023 left a devastating impact on the affected communities. Over 50,000 lives were lost, 200,000 buildings destroyed, and more than 120,000 people were injured, with up to 26m in need of humanitarian assistance according to the World Health Organization. In response, Help.NGO immediately deployed its Disaster Immediate Response Team to assist with assessment, drone mapping, and the distribution of relief supplies. The team worked tirelessly despite the widespread destruction and lack of electricity and connectivity in the affected areas.
Help.NGO worked also alongside the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOTOSM) to map disaster-affected areas in Syria and Türkiye. Drone and satellite imagery can be essential in identifying damaged buildings and assessing the extent of the disaster, helping responders estimate the loss and damage caused by the earthquake. These maps remain crucial for planning reconstruction efforts and providing aid to communities in need. The earthquake was a tragic event that left a lasting impact on the affected communities. However, the work of Help.NGO and its partners demonstrated the power of collaboration and the importance of quick response and recovery efforts in times of crisis.