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Reconnecting refugees with loved ones thanks to the Cisco Disaster Response Team

Last month, I had the privilege, as part of my job, to go to Greece to deploy emergency communications infrastructure. Cisco was asked by partner NGOs to support the influx of people passing through the Greek islands due to the Syrian refugee crisis.

Syria’s civil war is the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. Half the country’s pre-war population, more than 11 million people, have been killed or forced to flee their homes. Hundreds of thousands of refugees are attempting the dangerous trip across the Mediterranean Sea from Turkey to Greece, hoping to find a better future in Europe—and unfortunately not all of them make it across. Those who do, then face steep challenges from strained resources and minimal services due to the enormity of the situation.

This is why they need our help. The majority of the refugee community in Greece is Syrian and the rest are Iraqi and Afghans, trying to escape wars there. The current humanitarian aid effort is led by UN agencies working with the national governments and a multitude of NGO aid organisations. The overall response has been humbling to see, people providing shelter and power to sites, and the local support offered by Greek citizens in welcoming the refugees has been inspiring.

Copy of _SOS0827-PanoTen of us (from Cisco, a partner NGO and other corporate disaster response teams) have just returned from the region. We went there with one aim in mind; to install secure Wi-Fi zones and charging stations so that the refugees could contact their loved ones and families back home. For many, they had been out of touch with those that mattered for so long and this was the first opportunity they had to let them know they were safe and ok.

When we first arrived on Greek shores, most of the refugee sites had no communications infrastructure in place at all. The Disaster Response Team had been tasked to bring connectivity to various points along the migration routes, starting in the Greek islands. The importance of this was brought home, as we learned that one of the first questions refugees ask when they get rescued out of their boats is, “Do you have Wi-Fi?”

For people arriving from these boats with very few possessions, little money, and certainly no local currency, the chance to just let people know they were ok had a hugely positive effect. We often forget how much we rely on digital communications in our day-to-day lives. Once we’d set up the networks, people were immediately able to Read More »

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NERV: The Brain Behind Networked Disaster Response at Cisco

Hurricane season is upon us, and storms have already begun to harass the Gulf Coast with torrential rains and violent winds. The threat of such a storm doesn’t cross my mind as I sit in my cubicle in San Jose, enjoying the comforts of an air-conditioned office and a hot cup of coffee on my desk. But behind building J on Cisco’s San Jose campus, Rakesh Bharania and the Cisco Tactical Operations (TacOps) team are on 24/7 alert, ready to respond the moment an earthquake strikes or a tornado touches down anywhere in the world.

I had the privilege of visiting Rakesh and his team this week, getting a behind-the-scenes look at Cisco’s investment in using networking technology to help those in need when disaster hits.

After disaster strikes, the TacOps team can deploy within 72 hours – the most critical stage of a response.  When a disaster cripples communications systems, the TacOps team can establish satellite-based communications  so first responders, government agencies, and relief organizations can coordinate relief efforts and speed delivery of food, water, shelter, and medical care to those affected.

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Cisco Honored for Supporting Disaster Relief in the Bay Area

Cisco is proud to announce it has received the 2014 Humanitarian Partnership Award from the Silicon Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross. The award recognizes the support Cisco has given to the American Red Cross’ mission, and salutes the significant impact Cisco has made in Silicon Valley.

Cisco’s relationship with the Silicon Valley Chapter, and the American Red Cross in general, is deep, enduring, and reciprocal. We have been strategic disaster response partners for more than a decade, and we share a common focus. While the American Red Cross is frequently first on scene to provide food, shelter, water, and relief services during disasters, Cisco’s rapid response IT solutions – and its employees — are not far behind, as supporting critical human needs is a key component in Cisco’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) pledge.

Over the years, Cisco has supported the American Red Cross by making cash and product donations, lending technical expertise, and encouraging extensive employee volunteerism, not only in Silicon Valley, but throughout the United States and the world.

Cisco "Ready When the Time Comes" volunteers are a critical element in their communities' disaster readiness.

Cisco “Ready When the Time Comes” volunteers are a critical element in their communities’ disaster readiness.

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Making Connections When Mother Nature Hits

When natural disasters strike, our first instincts are to phone or text loved ones; check news and social media sites; and go online to lend support. These connections become our lifelines. In the process, mobile devices become paramount in connecting people to people and people to data.

That’s why the Internet of Everything (IoE) is so critical. In the moments immediately following a disaster popular social media networks, like Facebook and Twitter, serve as quick ways to locate loved ones. At the same time, social media allows those affected to inform multiple people at once that they are okay, with a simple tweet or post. Read More »

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Cisco Employee Receives Prestigious Governmental Award for Work on Project Samudaya

In November 2012, Cisco Bangalore-based employee Aravind Sitaraman (President – Inclusive Growth) received the prestigious Rajyotsava award for his leadership of Cisco’s Project Samudaya, which helped rebuild 5 villages in the Indian state of Karnataka after catastrophic flooding in 2009. This honor is the highest conferred to civilians by Karnataka’s state government. The award reflects Sitaraman’s deep personal commitment to the well-being of communities in India, as well as his strong alignment with Cisco’s unique method of sincere yet strategic social investment.

Cisco’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts are defined by a simple equation: you + networks = impact multiplied. When the right person meets the right technology, it’s easy to do the math. Indeed, many of Cisco’s CSR efforts begin with grassroots enthusiasm like Aravind’s, which, when combined with Cisco solutions and best practices, can yield an outcome like Project Samudaya: an employee’s authentic, locally attuned passion for change is exponentially multiplied by the company’s resources and expertise.

Aravind Sitaraman Receives Award

Aravind Sitaraman receives the prestigious Rajyotsava Award from India’s government.

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