In a disaster, the most important information for those in the international disaster response community is that about the exact place and scale. However, problems with communication networks and the complexity of the disaster information can make collection difficult. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs provides information about the situation in the affected country on its websites; Virtual On-Site Operations Coordination Center (V-OSOCC), One Response (OR) and Relief Web (RW). The positive and negative characteristics of these websites are discussed from the viewpoint of a medical non-governmental organization (NGO).
V-OSOCC is a platform for disaster response personnel in around the world. Disaster coordination information is shared interactively on a mimic board. This information is sent in E-mails and SMS in real time. OR is a collaborative interagency website, designed to enhance coordination of humanitarian responses within the cluster approach. Public documents such as situation and assessment reports, maps, meeting schedules, and contact lists can be viewed. RW provides a wide range of information, not only about disasters but also about humanitarian emergencies. However, this website does not provide information such as contact lists for direct use in relief work.
These websites are considered from the viewpoint of a medical NGO. V-OSOCC can share information related to urban search and rescue in real time, but there is no coordination of medical teams. Thus, each medical team has to participate in health cluster meetings on site. OR is more convenient than V-OSOCC for health cluster members because it provides more detail, with updated situation and assessment reports and meeting schedules. However, such reports do not show needs at the community level. RW is suitable for institutions such as libraries, which generally collect academic information.
The websites discussed here are useful for collecting disaster information; however, they do not have information about community-level needs. Therefore, needs assessment has to be undertaken within affected communities.