Hurricane relief effort enlists technology from Ottawa
The Ottawa Citizen
Two small Ottawa companies and a Canadian giant are putting technology to work in helping victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Customer Expressions and MB3 are providing software that is helping the homeless find shelter and local agencies get funding for relief operations.
And Nortel Networks is doubling call-centre technology across the Gulf State region so that a U.S. federal emergency measures organization can quickly connect with victims registering for relief assistance.
Joe Gerard, vice-president for sales and marketing at Customer Expressions, said 10,000 people have already used the homeless service to offer or seek housing in the hurricane zone.
"Since going live, we have been recording a new offer or request every five seconds on average."
Today, the work of matching offers and applicants by geography and demographics including age, gender and household numbers, will begin.
The system replaces a toll-free phone service started by Share Your Home, a Baton Rouge, Louisiana, organization that was swamped by the first wave of calls. It turned to Customer Expressions, a five-year-old company with 20 employees. CE adapted case-management software it sells to companies to manage customer complaints and service requests.
For MB3, a tiny company with just three employees, the software that helps finance public bodies during emergencies is its only business.
MB3 spokesman Matt Blakely said the state of Louisiana has signed up for a trial of software that quickly processes local agency claims.
The software got the first test during Florida's hurricanes last year and won the support of U.S. government relief experts, and Mr. Blakely said he expects the states of Alabama and Mississippi to follow with their own trials.
"Each state will have 400 to 500 agencies and local municipalities working on removing damaged property, clearing roads and dealing with flooding," he said.
"The software lets them file claims quickly. Federal relief agencies can determine eligibility of the claims, forecast costs, and plan for needs instantly."
Nortel said it will deliver four new interactive voice-response telecommunications systems today to a U.S. emergency agency call centre in Denton, Texas, near Dallas. Three more will follow within a week.
"They needed to expand the call centre in a big way, and we were able to meet that need quickly," said Bob Corbitt of Nortel PEC Inc.
PEC is the Washington computer services company that Nortel bought early this year to expand U.S. government business.
The Dallas-area centre provides service around the clock in several languages as well as special services for people with hearing and speech impairments.
Nortel got the request for more technology last Friday and shipped the equipment yesterday. Many companies with Ottawa operations are donating to relief operations.
Cisco Systems' corporate and employee donations are expected to reach $3 million U.S. Alcatel has pledged to match employee donations up to $1 million U.S.
Nokia and Lockheed Martin have given $1 million U.S. in donations.
Siemens is sending power generators, and water-treatment and medical equipment.Email this page Print this page