July newsletter: for SBTF members

We’ve published an update for SBTF members. It’s the first of what we hope will be a monthly newsletter.

It’s available here: July SBTF newsletter but you’ll need to be a SBTF volunteer to read it.

If you aren’t a SBTF volunteer why not apply to join now.

Small successes in Nepal

Much of the work of the Standby Task Force is, rightly, in the background supporting the overall response. We collate data and produce maps.

We do also get involved in more specific human stories though.

Locating trapped children

Last night we asked a few of our volunteers to find the geo location of some trapped children.

All we had was rough information. Volunteers found the location (the latitude and longitude) based on descriptions from people on the ground. We fed the location to  information to our friends working at VOST.

Within hours we received this message:

 The […] children have been reached – found temporary shelter and have received food and water! They can’t go home though, so will still need help to stay healthy and find permanent shelter, but safe for now. Thanks SBTF volunteers for your help! Seeing more positive signs now the SAR have arrived and hoping for so many more miracles like this.

(We’ve redacted the location details for this public blog post)

Urgent request for medical assistance

We are working with Nepali volunteers some inside and some outside the country in a group we created with Luther Jeke and Medha Sharma.

They found an urgent request for medical assistance from a doctor asking for many specific items of medical equipment. Unfortunately it had the wrong details on it. They helped track down the correct details for the doctor. One of the volunteers telephoned him and had a conversation. Our friends at Humanity Road were able to match a supplier willing to donate all that was required. Supplies are now being arranged to fly into Nepal and be collected at the airport by the doctor!

News release: Global volunteers prepare the way for international assistance to Nepal

Issued by Standby Task Force 2015 UTC April 25 2015. For immediate use.

Just hours after a devastating earthquake hit Nepal, a network of humanitarians are working together to support the international response.

With significant property damage and hundreds of people feared dead, rescue and relief organisations are preparing to send staff, supplies and other assistance to the country. To help them, volunteers from the Standby Task Force are working online to map reports of damage and requests for assistance that have been shared online.

The team is also collating resources that will be useful to responders as they begin work in Nepal. Their database already includes links to maps, details about which agencies are responding and even contact information for staff travelling to Nepal.

Jus Mackinnon is President of the Standby Task Force she explained:

“We have a network of over 1400 people across the world who undertake regular training and volunteer to respond rapidly when a serious crisis occurs. We can really make a difference on the ground by giving relief and rescue organisations a good idea of which areas are affected in what way. This helps them to target their efforts more effectively and get help to the people who need it as quickly as possible.”

“Some of what we do is good, old-fashioned information gathering just with computers. We do use some very cutting edge technology as well. In particular we have been running an artificial intelligence system developed by QCRI since the first reports of the earthquake appeared. This sifts social media reports and means that we only need to focus on reports that are directly relevant.”

“I’m so proud of this network. Our volunteers worked on two separate deployments last month for Vanuatu but that hasn’t stopped them stepping forward to help the people of Nepal.”

Standby Task Force volunteers are working, online, alongside other digital humanitarian groups including the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap team and Humanity Road.

For media enquiries please contact

Ben Proctor, Media Lead, ben@standbytaskforce.com skype:likeaword (timezone UTC+1)


Jus MacKinnon, President,  justine@standbytaskforce.com skype:fidget01 (timezone UTC+1)


Joyce Monsees, Volunteer Coordinator, joyce@standbytaskforce.com skype:joycemonsees  (timezone UTC-7)


Online volunteers extend their work to support response in Vanuatu

Volunteer network Standby Task Force will extend its deployment in support of Vanuatu until Sunday 22 March 2015. The deployment has originally been expected to end on Friday 20 March 2015.

The Standby Task Force, a network of volunteer “crisis-mappers” is working at the request of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA).

They are collating a resource to help agencies responding to the crisis better understand the situation and work more effectively with each other on the ground. The amount of information has been increasing over the past day and so the decision has been taken to extend the deployment to capture as much useful data as possible.

They have also been sifting through images of the damage and publishing the relevant images on maps to help agencies plan their response. This phase of the work has now been completed.

The maps are available online:



Joyce Monsees is a member of the Standby Task Force core team with responsibility for volunteer engagement. She is one of the leads for the deployment

She said:

“ I continue to be amazed by the global spirit of this group. Our members come from all corners of the earth, but they share the desire to help those in need. I see them help out on their lunch hour, in between classes or after they have put their kids to bed. It is truly a wonderful world we live in when complete strangers dedicate time together to help people whom they will never meet..

The Standby Task Force was created in 2010 and brings together hundreds of digital humanitarians from over 80 countries.

For media enquiries contact Ben Proctor ben@standbytaskforce.com @likeaword skype:likeaword

Online volunteers logon to support humanitarian effort in Vanuatu

Volunteers from across the globe are working online to support the humanitarian response in Vanuatu. Vanuatu was hit by the category 5 storm Pam on Friday 13 March.

The Standby Task Force, a network of volunteer “crisis-mappers” has started work at the request of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA). They will be searching for tweets about the storm, identifying pictures and videos of damage and flooding and passing this information through UN OCHA to responders on the ground. They are also collating a resource to help responding agencies better understand the situation and work more effectively with each other on the ground.

Initially the group intends to be working until Friday 20 March but this will be reviewed as the situation on the ground and online becomes clearer.

Jus MacKinnon is president of the Standby Task Force and is leading the Vanuatu deployment.

She said:

“Responders are looking at a very complex situation on the ground in Vanuatu. The Standby Task Force aims to support the humanitarian response by improving their understanding of the situation. We use widely used tools like Skype and Google Drive as well as more specialised mapping and data processing systems.”

“We rely on the hard work and commitment of people across the world who donate their time and their skills to help support humanitarian action. They have already responded really enthusiastically to the call for assistance for Vanuatu.”

The Standby Task Force was created in 2010 and brings together hundreds of digital humanitarians from over 80 countries.

See our updates on the situation in Vanuatu and our work to support the humanitarian response.

Over eighty countries represented as citizens mobilise to help in disaster situations

Volunteers from 85 countries collaborated online to assist humanitarian organisations in 2014 according to the Standby Task Force annual report (available as a PDF).

The Task Force is a network of over 1300 people who give up their time to help the UN and other agencies understand what is happening in disaster zones.

In 2014 Standby Task Force volunteers were mobilised online:

  • to help the World Food Programme get better data on the impact of drought in Pakistan
  • to help the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs improve its understanding of the impact of flooding in the Balkans
  • to support the charity NetHope in its work to combat Ebola in West Africa
  • to track the impact of Typhoon Hagupit on the Philippines at the request of the Digital Humanitarian Network

Volunteers typically monitor online media and social sources or undertake research using information hidden away on websites across the globe.

“This is not crowd-sourcing”

explains Standby Task Force vice president Per Aarvik

“Our volunteers undertake training and we practice our skills regularly. We have established workflows to assess the quality and veracity of data that we are monitoring. Having so many volunteers spread across the world means we can respond quickly and work around the clock”

“We have no paid staff and rely entirely on the work of unpaid people across the globe who want to use their skills to assist in humanitarian crises. We are always looking to recruit volunteers. Just visit www.standbytaskforce.com to find out more”

The Standby Task Force Annual Report 2014 (available as a PDF) was published on 3 March 2015

For media enquiries

Please contact one of the media leads in the core team:

The UN Dispatch highlights the Standby Task Force

The UN Dispatch is blog from the United Nations Foundation. Their posts inform readers worldwide of global initiatives, important topics and the latest news in the humanitarian field. Their latest post features the Standby Task Force!

This January 2015 issue, titled “10 Stories That Will Drive the Global Agenda in 2015” spotlights the effectiveness of crisismapping and the innovative technologies used to collect and organize data. Look at article number 10. Your efforts continue to be recognized and respected.

We applaud all of our volunteers for their dedication to humanitarian aid and our goal to help those who have been the victims of disasters or crises. Thank you

SBTF Nominated for UK Women in IT Awards 2015 – Corrected

The Standby Task Force has been shortlisted for the United Kingdom Women in IT Awards 2015, an award that recognizes the outstanding innovation achieved by women in the IT industry. SBTF has been nominated under the category Advocate of the Year. The Advocate of the Year award is given to a technology company that has gone out of its way to support the cause of getting more women in IT in the last 18 months. Judges assess companies by examining the women led IT initiatives the candidates have pioneered as well as their impact on and integration with, the business.

Justine Mackinnon, has served the Standby Task Force since 2011 and has been President since December 2013 and has actively worked to ensure that women take an equal lead role in charting the way forward during this exciting time for our young organization. Under her leadership, the Standby Task Force has provided critical support to ongoing humanitarian crisis around the world; building on the collective organizational experience of 40+ deployments. Her central role in the early days of the international response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa providing information and communication coordination helped lay the foundation for a cooperative multilateral response effort under the Inter-Agency IM Working Group.

It is extremely exciting that Standby Task Force and Justine have been short-listed for this prestigious and premier award for women in the IT sector in the United Kingdom. This recognition comes on the heels of a successful deployment to support UNOCHA humanitarian relief to communities in the Philippines affected by Typhoon Hagupit [Ruby]. There is always more work to be done toward improving the services we provide to individuals, first responders and our partner agencies. It speaks to the dedication of our volunteers and the entire membership network that we have received this recognition.

The Women in IT Awards 2015 will announce finalists on 29 January 2015 at a dinner award ceremony being held at the Grosvenor House on Park Lane in London. There are over 50 short listed individuals and organizations up for awards in 12 unique categories. We at SBTF are thrilled to be counted in that number and look forward to learning more about all of the dynamic initiatives, like ours, who have made it to this final round of selection. For a full list of short-listed candidates please visit this site. For more information on the individual awards, judges and event particulars please visit the official event site here..

Thanks again to our all our members, truly well done your hard work is being recognized!

SBTF Calls for Filipino Diaspora support on Typhoon Hagupit | Ruby

Are you in the Philippines or part of the Filipino Diaspora?

The Standby Task Force needs your help to identify, report and locate critical issues for rescuers and relief workers. We are looking for are short and actionable bits of information that can point government agencies, humanitarian organization and volunteers to individuals and communities in need.

How can you get this information to us?

Easy, if you know of a blocked road you can tweet us directly @SBTaskForce or using the hashtag #SBTF with the relevant information included.

What type of information is important?

Road closures

Downed power lines

Trapped people

Building collapses

Requests for help/needs

Evacuations needed/completed

Food/Water aid needed/provided

[In specific we are interested in information that falls into any of the following three categories (1) Requests for Help/Needs; (2) Humanitarian Aid Provided; (3) Infrastructure Damage

For example:

Street, village name. No water available. #SBTF

Street/village name. 4 people trapped #SBTF

Road/Town. Road blocked by landslide. Pic #SBTF]

Anyone can help us with these efforts, however if you have first hand knowledge of the locations affected we need your support in particular. Are you in the Filipino Diaspora and still have family on the ground? Do you know anyone currently stationed in the Philippines? If you have a few minutes or even a couple hours we can use your direct support.

Have a question on our needs? Shoot us a Direct Message @SBTaskForce or email coreteam@stanbytaskforce.com. Thanks for taking the time to volunteer and support these critical relief efforts.

Not yet a member? Find out how here: https://standbytaskforce.ning.com/. Have a bit more time to volunteer and interested in officially signing up to provide continued support on this deployment in particular? Review the information on this site, sign-up and we will be in-touch:


For regular updates please visit us at any of the following:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StandbyTaskForce?ref=hl

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SBTaskForce

Blog: http://blog.standbytaskforce.com/

You Can Help the Victims of Super Typhoon Ruby (Hagupit)

Super Typhoon Ruby (Hagupit) made landfall in the Philippines. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Manila has activated the Digital Humanitarian Network. Standby Task Force have deployed and are responding. We are using MicroMappers Clickers to augment their important damage and needs assessments on the ground. Our mission is to identify tweets that refer to urgent needs, infrastructure damage and humanitarian aid. We’ve also been asked by the UN to identify pictures posted on Twitter that show disaster damage. This is exactly the same request we received in response to Typhoon Haiyan last year. Anyone who has an Internet connection and speaks some English can join this digital humanitarian effort. You don’t need prior experience or super-hero skills to be a Digital Humanitarian (also known as a Digital Jedi).

You will find links to the Clickers here: MicroMappers


The platform is still under development, however, so we thank you for your patience and understanding if not everything is as perfect as we’d like. We’ve included a link in each Clicker tutorial to a feedback form where you can let us know how to improve the Clickers.

Please note: the Clickers may at times be out of tweets and/or pictures, in which case you’ll see the message “100% completed”. If you do see this message, this means we’re busy uploading new tweets/pictures to the Clickers. Simply give us a bit of time as we upload new tweets/clickers and check in again later.

And that’s all there is to it. Thank you very much for your time and goodwill!