Overview of Sahana Disaster Management System

Sahana is an integrated set of pluggable, web based disaster management applications that supports the response to large-scale humanitarian problems in the aftermath of a disaster. Our aspirations are as follows:

  1. Primary Objective: Help alleviate human suffering and help save lives through the efficient use of IT during a disaster
  2. Bring together a diverse set of actors from Government, emergency management, NGOs, INGOs, spontaneous volunteers and victims themselves in responding effectively to a disaster
  3. Empower the victims, responders, volunteer to better enable them to help themselves and others
  4. Protect victim data and reduce the opportunity for data abuse
  5. Provide a free and open source solution end-to-end available to peoples of all nationalities

Component Modules

With the above aspirations, the main applications built into Sahana and problems they address so far are the:

  1. Missing Person Registry
    Reduces trauma by facilitating the reunion of missing persons with their families. Special features of the Sahana application include a phoentic or “sounds-like” name search.
  2. Organization Registry
    Coordinates and balances the distribution of relief organizations in the affected areas. This application connects relief groups allowing them to operate as a coordinated response effort.
  3. Request Management System
    Registers and tracks all requests for support between registered organisations. This enables emergency managers to monitor and track the flow of support and to prioritise response efforts. It also assists by increasing accountability and therefore helps donors connect to relief requirements.
  4. Camp Registry
    Tracks the location and numbers of inhabitants of temporary shelters that have been setup by registered organisations or professional resume services organizations. Among other functions, it allows emergency managers to quickly view occupancy rates across all shelters.
  5. Volunteer Management
    Collates the contact information, skills, assignments and availability of volunteers and other registered responders. This means that
  6. Inventory Management
    Tracks the location, quantities, expiry of supplies stored for utilization in a disaster
  7. Situation Awareness
    Provides a GIS overview of the situation at hand for the benefit of decision makers.

Successful Deployments

Sahana has been deployed successfully in the following places:

  1. Tsunami - Sri Lanka 2005 - Officially deployed in the CNO for the Government of Sri Lanka
  2. AsianQuake - Pakistan 2005 - Officially deployed within with NADRA for the Government of Pakistan
  3. Southern Leyte Mudslide Disaster - Philippines 2006 - Officially deployed with the NDCC and ODC for the Government of Philippines
  4. Sarvodaya - Sri Lanka 2006 - Deployed for Sri Lanka's largest NGO
  5. Terre des Hommes - Sri Lanka 2006 - Deployed with new Child Protection Module
  6. Yogjarkata Earthquake - Indonesia 2006 - Deployed by ACS, urRemote and Indonesian whitewater association and Indonesian Rescue Source
  7. New York City - 2007-08 – Pre-deployed in support of the City of New York’s Coastal Storm Plan
  8. Peru Ica Earthquake - 2007 - Deployed for the Government of Peru
  9. Chendu - Shizuan Province Earthquake 2008 - Deployed by Chendgu Police


Though application of Sahana is the greatest recognition of the value of the Sahana system to help out in disasters, our work also has been recognized in other ways

  1. Sahana won the Free Software Foundation Award for Social Benefit in 2006 amongst other contenders such as OLPC, Project Gutenburg and Wikipedia.
  2. Software 2006, USA - Good Samaritian Award - 2006
  3. Sahana is identified as one of the top 10 open source "companies" to watch by a Network Wold Article 2006
  4. Interview of core team in BBC program “Code Breakers” - 2006
  5. One of the three top finalists in the Health category in Stockholm Challenge - 2006
  6. Redhat User Award - Given to the founder of Lanka Software Foundation Dr Sanjiva Weerawarna - 2005

Supported Operating Systems

Sahana supports all modern operating systems and browsers, including MS Windows, Mac OSX, Ubuntu and other Unix-like systems. Your browser must have JavaScript enabled, and your operating system must be able to run the Apache HTTP Server, the PHP programming language and MySQL database software. If you don't know what these are, the Installation Guides below will assist you.

How Sahana coordinates activities occurring in multiple locations

Depending on the installation Sahana can function as an online as well as an off line tool for disaster management. Web based system can be installed in Main web server and can access through a Local Area Network (LAN) or Internet to coordinate the disaster management activities. It also can be installed in Laptop as a field assistant with or without internet connectivity.

Sahana is designed for exchange of information stored in its database with another instance of Sahana installation. With the use of this feature, a field worker can exchange information stored in his laptop with other field workers or with the main server or another computer connected to the server through Internet.

Default system allows user to exchange information through internet or local area network. To facilitate off line use, instance of Sahana ( e.g. installed on a laptop computer) can communicate with another instance of Sahana system by exporting and importing data through Synchronization module.

Sahana deployment overview

Information form the disaster region can be delivered to the government / NGO data entry operatives by relative of the disaster affected person or person affected him/her self or by the field operatives working in the disaster region. This can be performed using,

  • Paper forms
  • Documents in electronic format stored in Floppy/USB flash disk
  • Independent instance of Sahana installed in a Laptop computer
  • Using Sahana portable app
  • Direct access to Sahana public portal using Internet (e.g. by a relative of a disaster affected individual)

Government or trusted NGO disaster relief help desks can access Central Sahana server through internet or local area network access. These organizations can run their own sections in the Organization registry for this purpose or they can run their own instance of Sahana and synchronize information with the Central Sahana server in the central place for disaster management.

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