Evert and Kate Bopp, founders of the Irish charity Disaster Tech Lab, have been invited to the White House. The Bopps, who founded their organisation in response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake, have recently been working in the Rockaway area of New York City as part of the disaster relief effort following hurricane Sandy.
The company, which was known as Haiti Connect, has recently been renamed Disaster Tech Lab to reflect their global expansion. It specializes in providing emergency communication systems support and other relief. After two and a half years in Haiti, during which they completed more than 30 successful projects, they decided in July 2012 to expand their work globally.
“We deployed to New York after receiving a request for assistance from a US based relief agency that we had worked with in Haiti," said Evert.
“This organisation had established a command center in the Rockaways but the existing communication systems were destroyed and there were no emergency communication systems available."
The deployment in New York was their first deployment in this capacity. As part of their deployment in New York, Disaster Tech Lab worked with FEMA, the US government’s main disaster management agency.
The people in FEMA were so impressed by their work that the organisation was invited to join the FEMA Innovation Team and following that the Bopps were invited to attend a FEMA policy meeting in the White House early next month. The meeting is centered on finding new and improved ways to respond to future disasters.
This year promises to be a busy year for the organisation. Shortly after the meeting in the White House they are participating in a disaster response exercise, organised by the US Naval Academy, in Camp Roberts California.
Also towards the end of the first quarter of 2013 they plan to release the first version of a suite of disaster response communication software that is currently being developed in-house. In addition to that they are planning to expand their capacity by securing more equipment and recruiting additional volunteers.
However, says Evert Bopp, all this depends on how much support they achieve.
"We are a charitable trust and while we work exclusively with unpaid volunteers, including myself and my wife, this work incurs certain overheads that need to be paid for. We have a main equipment sponsor, Aruba Networks, who has been supporting us since 2010, but in order to continue our work we need to constantly raise funds. For this we are dependent on the generosity of third parties. I hope that our recent achievements will illustrate how much our work is needed and valued.”
For more information on their work visit their website www.disastertechlab.org.