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Kenya tool to help companies prepare for emergencies

After team members survived the Nairobi terror attack, Ushahidi released its new preparedness tool free, writes its CEO, NATHANIEL MANNING



  1. I set up a message, “Are you okay after the Dusit attacks?” Yes or No?

2. I selected it to be sent across all channels: SMS, email, in-app, Slack, and Voice.

3. Then I selected my Kenya Team group, which I had created previously. The group contained my Nairobi staff.

4. I also added one of our board members, who I knew was visiting the offices this week.

5. Then I pressed send.

The entire process took about 30 seconds from start to finish. There were less than five clicks (not including typing “…after the Dusit attacks?). I was able to reach 15 of my staff across five channels, nearly instantly.

Within six minutes I got “yes” responses from 10 of the 15 messages. Five had not yet answered. I scrolled down and realised that four of those recipients were test accounts or multiple email addresses (for instance I am both Nat and Nathaniel at Ushahidi) and that they had actually already responded. Then I called the last unaccounted for person directly. 

They answered and said they were okay. If they had not responded I would have called their emergency contact. Everyone was accounted for. It took about 7 minutes to guarantee the team was okay. During the Westgate attack this process had taken over an hour.

Every day terrible things happen in world. Every day we wake up thinking it won’t happen to us, because that is the only way we can go about our lives. For team, community, friends and loved ones in Kenya, this attack has reopened wounds from previous attacks, and subjected many Kenyans to intense and unimaginable trauma. I live in California, and if I thought too long and hard about earthquakes or fires, I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed. I have to put on my Superman cape, my invisible shield of belief that today is going to be fine, so that I can go about life.

We all wear superman capes, because if we dwelled too long on the risks and threats, it would paralyse us.

After events like Westgate or the Riverside attack, we have a few days, weeks, or months, where we think about our emergency plans. We set up protocols. We think about how we could have done it better. For instance, after a tremor last year, I spent the next weekend setting up an earthquake kit; crazy that I had lived in California for seven years without one! But after some time we get back to life, and we begin to wake up and put on our Superman capes again. If it wasn’t for that tremor, I still wouldn’t have an earthquake kit.

The attacks in Kenya are a tragedy — and many such tragedies happen every year, usually when we are least prepared.

It is important, for everyone to take some time to grieve, but also take a moment to prepare. One of the best way we can respect those who are lost is to care for the living.

Click here to read more about the TenFour tool, and how to prepare your organisation for emergencies.

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