Mit ClimateColab Proposals Portlet Mit ClimateColab Proposals Portlet


Individual and community resiliency improves with post-disaster access to crucial documents, which this program will identify and safeguard.




Disasters leave absolute chaos in their wake and tragedies are compounded when people lose important documents such as driver's licenses, National Registration Cards, insurance policies and birth certificates. Accessing recovery resources such as shelter and food is often dependent on having appropriate documents and long-term rebuilding efforts are stymied when people cannot readily prove title to property or provide identification to qualify for relief resources. To speed recovery immediately after a disaster, it is crucial that vulnerable populations develop and implement locally tailored, affordable and reliable document identification and protection programs.

This program will provide flood and fire resistant containers suitable to a region, develop appropriate training to identify the proper documents to protect, create secure online storage capacities and have a rewards program to ensure effective implementation and ongoing review. It uses simple community organizing techniques and inexpensive but secure containers to provide appropriate document protection before a disaster strikes. Via secure tablets with biometric file protection, it also provides a reliable cloud-based backup system should the physical documents still become unavailable.

This project is based on pre-existing relationships with trusted local institutions and leaders and builds on the document management practices the local population already follows. It will improve resiliency at the individual level because disaster survivors will be able to focus on direct disaster response without being distracted by the bureaucratic challenges of replacing important documents. As document protection efforts expand, resulting resiliency-based relationships will morph into other locally disaster response capacities such as emergency kitchens and community care facilities that will deploy organically and operate without outside support at a time when general response capacities are otherwise overwhelmed.




What actions do you propose?

The Problem: The world's most vulnerable populations lack the robust resiliency that comes with wealth, access to political power and personal physical ability. When disaster strikes, these underprivledged victims cannot simply pack their belongings in a car and drive to safety ahead of a storm, nor can they, either on their own or with institutional assistance, build flood proof structures ahead of a disaster. Especially in a large scale disaster like typhoon-related flooding, problems beget problems and those who are least prepared for disasters suffer disproportionately from them.

The Solution: This project will build hyperlocal resiliency by providing families with the ability to protect their essential documents from both environmental and manmade disasters, both in hard copy and in digital formats. Having ready access to birth certificates, personal identification cards, pet medical records, land titles and more will help residents of disaster impacted communities worldwide reunite with family members, reestablish their domiciles, collect insurance and access emergency support at a time when a disaster has totally altered their immediate world and made them especially vulnerable. Complimented by food and water storage activities, this documentation protection plan will meet two of the three major needs identified by post-Katrina survivors as being crucial to disaster resilience: "The three needs most frequently cited were to learn how to (a) develop an emergency communication plan, (b) maintain an emergency food and water supply for the home, and (c) protect important documents."

Process Overview:

For any project to be expanded to scale, there needs to be proof that the relevant intervention works. In this case, pilot projects will be implemented in two very different parts of the world that are both vulnerable to climate change-related flooding: the Ayeryewaddy Delta in Myanmar and Saint Bernard Parish in coastal Louisiana.The initial part of this project will be a more complete literature review and a baseline study of local practices of document protection by means of a household survey conducted by graduate students at local universities (Tulane and Yangon). This study will document the relevant  "risk awareness-action gap" that has consistently demonstrated across regions and across disasters that even when people are aware of a risk, they rarely take suitable precautions to mitigate it. The project will then implement its document identification and protection intervention in the studied communities. A post-pilot review, carried out within months of the project's start and then repeated periodically to ensure continued success, will demonstrate that low-cost investments in hyperlocal document protection systems, combined with community input and training around documentation, provide important and lasting resiliency benefits.

While addressing resiliency to climate change-related disasters, this project's focus on providing personal storage containers that are both flood and fireproof, along with creating easier access to cloud-based document storage and recovery, will also build resilience in the event of more personal disasters such as a major house fires.  This robust, multi-faceted layer of disaster protection will help vulnerable communities better face the multi-faceted resiliency challenges they will increasingly face.

General Requirements:

While many important documents, such as tax filings and bank records, are stored on the cloud in developed countries, places like Myanmar have limited internet access which makes the protection of these physical documents that much more important. Further, even in developed countries, access to the "cloud" during a disaster may be limited and being able to prove residency, ownership or even one's basic identity can be crucial to accessing services. Even seemingly mundane concerns such as getting one's dog into a shelter often requires proof of proper shots. But in an increasingly digital world, it is also important to create systems that allow everyone, regardless of personal internet access, to store important document securely on the cloud.

The personal document storage devices will be appropriate to the impacted community. For Myanmar, where storage ... In Louisiana,


Compared to the U.S., few citizens in Myanmar currently have digital backup of their important documents. Government departments also do not have digital records in any systematic fashion. For example, the department in charge of land records has only just begun the long process of digitizing land registration and cadastral maps. So thus far, it has been up to citizens to make their own digital backup. But widespread internet access only became available in 2012 when SIM cards were reduced in price from $500 to $20 and a 2G mobile data network was introduced.

This proposal seeks to make physical storage of documents more robust while at the same time adding digital backup to the mix. 

For one thing, few people have bank accounts, and in any case banks are not generally online.


Disaster prep is VERY cost effective

Safe Boxes and Safe Havens

Giving free small safes to hold documents with community parties to check and reimburse.

That physical documents should have digital backup, and digital documents should be backed up by hard copies stored in secure locations,  is a guiding principle of this proposal.  Just as physical documents are vulnerable to being misplaced or destroyed by flood or fire, digital documents in the 'cloud' are vulnerable to hacking or to not being accessible when/if there is no electricity or there has been damage to infrastructure such as cell phone towers, etc.  Every household that is vulnerable to disaster should have a small, portable safe box or bag that can be readily carried out in an emergency. These should contain key documents, a modest amount of cash., a flashlight, passport, water purification pills, etc. Keeping vital documents in a public location, even in a personal safe box, may be less popular in the U.S. due to heightened concerns about privacy. In Myanmar, ‘safe havens’ have already been identified in most Delta villages and towns as part of disaster resiliency efforts in the wake of Cyclone Nargis.  Safe havens are relatively safe and secure buildings in the community that are located on higher ground. Often schools or monasteries are chosen.

Individuals/families would pay for their own safes in the U.S., but strong financial incentive would be given through a (government?) program that gives a gift certified of $100 to any individual/family that proves it has bought and appropriately used the safe box as verified by the community captain. The gift certificate would be pre-programmed to be redeemable only for items useful in emergency situations, e.g. for first aid items, emergency food rations, etc.

Plastic bags could be specially made if needed:

In Myanmar, safe bags will have to be fully funded externally. In addition, not every household has the correct documents already in their possession. Many lost their National Registration Cards during Cyclone Nargis and have been unable to obtain new ones because their birth certificates were also destroyed. Community Based Organizations such as Swanyee are currently helping residents to obtain their NRC cards.


Be able to shift resources in a flood to a new church, hotel, etc that is undamaged

Have some basic set of supplies(?) but rely on people's trusting the group to bring their own supplies to  central cooking/eating/service point (not just food, though- batteries, sleeping bags

Needs incorporate community norms

Needs to have everyday, present utility- history shows if you are not paid to do something (fire fighters), you're not trained or ready when the time comes. People are not prepared.

Needs to be lowtech

having local "resiliency champions" with minimal training and equipment

Building on existing social networks- sewing clubs, food clubs, social support agencies- how do you know your neighbors?

Find a low-level common denominator (monasteries in Myanmar? Scouts in Louisiana?) to teach a basic flood awareness class.

Community Food Coop- food of some sort needs to be available for food truck distribution- if used regularly, there will be a stockpile to workthrough while more supplies come in. Have a pre-existing relationship between food truck users and people with food whose kitchens may no longer be available (food pantries, churches, etc)

Non-perishables are easiest- using generators and so forth may be more overhead than we want.

This is not a government program. GOvernment may provide some resources, but doesn't run things. It is very local!

Developing a support network

Before a disaster strikes, build and maintain relationships with local law enforcement, county emergency management agencies, neighboring businesses, vendors, even roofers and refrigerator repair companies.

What are the best ways to build in cheap and quick resiliency for

1. Family communications/unification/communicating with neighbors

2. Food

3. Water

4. Shelter

Anticipate – The capacity to better anticipate and act on climate hazards and stresses through early warning and early action systems.
·      Absorb – The capacity to absorb shocks by increasing access to insurance and risk transfer pools (insurance) and social protection risk reduction practices and technologies.
·      Reshape – The capacity to reshape development pathways by transforming economies to reduce risks and root causes of vulnerabilities and support the sound management of physical infrastructure and ecosystems to foster climate resilience.



  Individual solutions that could be implemented in communities worldwide to help them take action after warning information is received (access to new forms of saving or funding, equipment to be used to protect resources, infrastructure that could be set up in advance of a flood or drought, resource maps);
·      Local, national and international policies and financing mechanisms that could accelerate early action;
·      Planning processes, programs, tools or resources to guide communities; and/or
·      Public awareness campaigns and community engagement initiatives.

Collective Intelligence

o address this, there have been significant developments in early warning systems that alert communities of extreme weather events before they happen, but an early warning is inadequate without early action.  A community’s capacity to adequately anticipate and prepare for hazards is fundamental to strengthening their resilience. Often people or policy makers are unable to act in advance of a hazard even if warnings are received, due to lack of funding, lack of will and/or technical capacity.

Siemens Resilient Cities

Resiliency embodies and embraces five important facets

  • Robustness: infrastructure that can withstand the impacts of hazard events without significant damage or function loss
  • Redundancy: systems with the capacity to absorb sudden changes in demand or partial loss of supply
  • Diversity and flexibility: services are supplied through a number of pathways that use distributed resources and multifunctional equipment
  • Responsiveness: responsive systems use automated monitoring, short feedback loops and controls at multiple points
  • Coordination: knowledge is shared, planning is collaborative and strategic


Some understanding of how to provide for homeless people during a disaster may be a useful guide, as folks become homeless during a disaster.

Who will take these actions?

Consortium for Resilient Gulf Communities

Where will these actions be taken?


Local organizations invovled in disaster preparedness, relief and recovery in th eDelta region of Myanmar- (Eben finds a "host" for an example):

What are other key benefits?

By creating a successful hyperlocal social norm around organizing for disaster-related resiliency, this project will create the foundation for other, more complex local resiliency and response programs. People who have learned to work together and trust each other when identifying and protecting important documents will be better able to develop a proactive approach to other aspects of resiliency to climate change related disasters, including:

Early Warning-Early Action Systems


   (1) Early warning:  provide communities with timely and actionable warnings, and
   (2) Early action: equip them with the knowledge, procedures and resources they need so they are prepared to act on these warnings when they happen.

hygiene in disasters

emergency toiletsUsing food trucks/pre-existing contracts/move out of harm's way. Done in California.

Mobile Kitchens- @25,000 (without the truck), serve up to ?

Can even build a food truck/trailer

Emergency food services


Cambodian Food trucks

What are the proposal’s costs?

10,000 budget- 100 safes +2,500 dollars; 100 25 $ reward packets of flashlight, batteries, etc= 2500, labor is voluntary through noted organization. For the proposal in LA. Scale up if implemented, plus some cost of managment. No downsides as long as safes are not used for fiscal instruments or similar items of extreme value. Only aimed at backup documention, passports, CD & backup hardrives, perhaps important medications with long shelf life.

'emergency' supply packet could be little light and batteries (windup?), minimal first aid, manual can opener/multi-tool, duct tape, sharpies, paper- 6 dollar flashlight

5 dollar ducttape

7 dollar first aid kit

When the safe initiative is proven successful, we can use the same networks to bring in the food trucks and emergency latrine programs.



Time line

Related proposals


Thumbs up 2 supporters Support Proposal
Proposal Summary
Document Identification and Protection as a Flood Risk Reduction Multiplier
Team Proposal: Only members listed on the Proposal's Contributors tab will be able to edit this Proposal. Members can request to join the Proposal team on the Contributors tab. The Proposal owner can open this Proposal for anyone to edit using the Admin tab.  
Contest: Anticipating Climate Hazards
How can vulnerable communities best prepare for climate-related hazards, and what new tools can be used to incentivize early action?