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Slide Notes

A review of CanVOST's contribution to the Digital Volunteer-Supported Recovery Operations Experiment (DVSROE) as part of the Cause III event.
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The role of CanVOST in the DVSROE

Published on Nov 18, 2015

How the members of the Canadian Virtual Operational Support Team performed during the recent Digital Volunteer-Supported Recovery Operations Experiment (Part of the broader #cause3 event)



Stepping Up For The DVSROE
A review of CanVOST's contribution to the Digital Volunteer-Supported Recovery Operations Experiment (DVSROE) as part of the Cause III event.

Our mission:
Support the Halifax Regional Municipality EOC by monitoring social networks to add to their situational awareness

CanVOST had a single client: the Halifax Regional Municipality Emergency Operations Centre.

The EOC distributed CanVOST monitoring data/reports to other agencies (Red Cross + governments)

A single client made liaison work simpler for the Team Lead.
Photo by claire.ly

Team Lead in Halifax
Associate Lead in NY
Members in Canada, the US and France

Team Lead was located in Halifax for the purpose of the exercise to:
* coordinate with exercise control team
* liaise directly with the EOC

Joanna Lane, Team Lead from the New York VOST acted as CanVOST associate team lead. Her work allowed the team to:
- better coordinate in real-time
- adopt standard VOST procedures

CanVOST members from across Canada were supported by members of the VISOV (Francophone VOST) and various members of VOSTs in the US

Our volunteers were extraordinary!

Monitoring focus:

  • Rumour management
  • Shelter operations
  • Recovery/situational awareness
  • Offers/requests for supplies/assistance
  • Damage assessment
The DVSROE scenario was divided in "vignettes" ... each scenario segment was treated as an ops cycle by CanVOST.

The breakdown of the scenario into manageable parts allowed the team to test:
- its notification and activation process
- ability to have team briefings on the go and ongoing online coordination
- shift focus of activity depending on needs of the EOC
- transition in members from other VOSTs
Photo by kardboard604

CanVOST collaborated with or received support from:

  • CrisisCommons
  • Red Cross
  • Humanity Road
  • US VOST members
CanVOST didn't work in a silo!

We were able to interact with other digital volunteers,

Although CanVOST members did not engage in crisis mapping, some of our data was integrated into volunteer-created maps.

Commonality between VOSTs allowed for a smooth transition of members of US teams into CanVOST when needed.
Photo by ralphbijker

CanVOST products

  • Command reports (for every cycle/scenario "vignette")
  • Urgent reports (to EOC for life threatening posts/info)
  • Additional info as requested by the HRM EOC
  • Access to monitoring results via Google Doc
An activation request form was filled out by the HRM EOC clearly stating the mission requirements for CanVOST.

A command report summarizing trends/analysis, showing illustrative social posts + pictures was produced for each scenario vignettes (ops cycle)

Whenever detected by CanVOST members, life-threatening posts (9-1-1 type of calls for help) were transmitted immediately to the EOC via the team lead in Halifax.

CanVOST was able to react and supply additional info when requested by the EOC.
Photo by Guy Drori

CanVOST tools:
Coordination: Google Hangout + Skype chat
Process: Google Drive
Monitoring: exercise-specific simulated platforms

At the start of each scenario vignette (ops cycle) a Google Hangout was organize to conduct a short team briefing.
(This might not be replicated in all CanVOST deployments)

The chat function within the CanVOST room on Skype was used for ongoing team coordination and relate urgent messages and info.

Ongoing monitoring results were part of the team workbook on Google Drive.

The workbook also contained all relevant team info and protocols.

Monitoring (as well as all social media play during the exercise) was conducted in a closed-loop environment provided by the exercise design team and ISR (the private firm who ran the show)
Photo by indiamos

Digital Volunteers

  • Helping from out of the area of operations
  • Multiple time zones = more coverage
  • adaptability and flexibility 
  • capitalize on their enthusiasm and tech savvy
There are clear benefits to having a VOST team with members from coast to coast.

Most won't be affected by an emergency affecting a specific part of Canada and with the various time zones, shift planning is made easier.

Digital volunteers can adapt quickly to mission changes.

Digital volunteers are dedicated and committed and great resources to be able to solve all sorts of tech issues.


  • Need for local knowledge
  • Familiarity with online tools
  • Language issues (French and others)
  • Increase number of available team members
  • Effective team coordination and internal comms
Not all is rosy though !

It's crucial to have members with extensive knowledge of the area of operations ...

The team needs maps and regular situation reports to have the "big picture" and make their monitoring more effective.

Ensure clear language and avoid jargon to make the best use of international volunteers whose first language might not be English.

It's critical to ensure all members are familiar with the tools used by CanVOST during deployments.

Congrats to CanVOST members
* Successful experiment
* Met EOC needs
* Worked well with other digivols

It was a great experiment and a great learning experience for CanVOST and other digital volunteers who took part in the DVSROE.

Any chance to simulate deployment in a safe environment is welcome!

I'm humbled by the commitment and dedication of my peers within CanVOST and other digivols organizations ...


Patrice Cloutier
Team Lead