Ruby Day 4: Brck at dawn

Celina texts me at 5:30am… we were talking yesterday about doing a dawn photoshoot for the Brck on the hotel roof (great view of volcano, dawn) and somehow despite being really tired last night (and ordering an 8am breakfast call) we’re both up and wandering around the top floor looking for the door to the roof.  The brck poses well – it’s balanced on the safety wall, so between shots we grab it just in case (it’s the only one in the country).  We go off for a long tricycle ride (he’s trying to sell us a hotel room) that ends at a breakfast place right next to the hotel.

There’ve been strong gusts of wind over the past few days (the sort that sounds like a small train passing) and there’s a bit of wind in the trees, but nothing to suggest a typhoon approaching. It’s rained a few times in the past few days too, a couple of times heavily, but that’s it. We don’t even have the multicolored “red sky in morning, shepherd take warning” dawn – it’s a gentle fade from grey into day. People seem a little bit on edge, but that’s it.

Today, mapping. I’ve been added to 5 different chats overnight, and I take a moment to work out which group each is from (I edit one title to make it clearer) and how they all link together.  I crawl through each chat looking for links that could be helpful to all of them, and dump them into the Skypechat of a volunteer who’s going to put them in an online page… this sounds unwieldy, but when the wifi gets messy Skype is the last online app standing, and this is a way to make sure notes don’t get lost by a dropped Googledoc link etc.  Ruby is looking messier today – there are storm surge (tsunami) estimates of up to 12 metres on the East coast, and it’s tracking up into the southern part of Manila, where I saw tin roof slums and tents near the waterline as I drove through yesterday.

There are some very specific needs posted in the chats… a mapping tool to give each municipality a local map with all their boundaries and infrastructure points marked on it, a 3W for the volunteers to keep track of each others’ work, and some license issues (and, in truth, veracity issues) with municipal boundary shapefiles.  I do a bit on each of these, and keep an eye on the other preparation work going on (the OSM team working out which areas to prioritize etc). Somehow a bunch of mappers from the Yolanda response just happen to be in the Philippines this week, which is making coordination between remote and local mappers (who are here, strong and leading) much much easier.

We bridge the local and remote in-person too… there are about 100 people at this event, and many are worried about their flights out.  One of the remote teams checks airport boards, FlightAware and NOTAMS to reassure them. My teammates have checked themselves into a hotel and are busy checking with the disaster people here on what they need to do (no cliff walks, but there are less obvious things like keeping your phones and laptops charged): they’re sensible peeps and seem to have all the bases they need well covered.

I check in on some of the chats (the EU is waking up now), make a list of all the disaster-related Ushahidi instances in the Philippines, and collapse in a heap on the sofa. It’s 7pm, and I think we’re going to have a very long week (during which I still have a dayjob to do).