TERA (Trilogy Emergency Relief Application) and Beneficiary Communication

The TERA SMS Text System

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and Trilogy International Partners, a wireless telecommunications company, has teamed up to form an exciting new partnership. TERA which stands for Trilogy Emergency Relief Application is a mobile phone application that allows aid agencies and mobile phone users in disaster areas to interact and listen in real time. TERA is an SMS text system designed for two way communication between disaster affected people and aid agencies. The information that it delivers helps to save lives, protect livelihoods and strengthen recovery from disasters and crises

The TERA system helps us to save more lives by delivering timely, targeted advice to disaster affected communities that makes our aid effort more efficient. It also helps to give communities a voice, ensuring that the correct type of aid is delivered to the right places. Most of all, it lets disaster affected people know that they are not alone, giving them the strength that they need to carry on.

TERA is a system that is hosted by GSM based mobile communication network operators for use by IFRC staff. It is designed to be operated remotely, allowing TERA to be operational as soon as a disaster develops. Unlike traditional SMS services, which require broadcast messages to be delivered to every subscriber on a carrier’s network, TERA allows the IFRC to specify a particular region or even a neighbourhood to which text messages will be sent to mobile phones. TERA manages outgoing and incoming Short Message Service (SMS) or text messaging between the Red Cross Red Crescent and disaster affected people. Consequently, TERA text messages elicit exceptional response rates from mobile phone users in need of aid, giving them an effective voice on how assistance should be delivered.

TERA uses SMS text for a number of reasons:

  • SMS is a basic GSM service. It is available on any handset. It is also one of the first services to be restored after a network outage.
  • SMS uses very little network bandwidth, minimising the stress on the mobile network.
  • SMS messages are stored on the handset. Recipients can show these messages to other people or they can forward them to people who are registered on another network.

Outgoing messages are used for a number of reasons:

  • To give early warnings of floods, hurricanes and other natural disasters
  • To provide targeted information on where to find medical help, clean water, food, shelter
  • To notify victims about vaccination programmes or changes in the aid services being offered
  • To give detailed advice on a range of issues such as hygiene, avoiding fraud, caring for affected people
  • To get feedback on the beneficiaries needs and experience of relief services

The system also manages inbound messages from victims:

  • Giving feedback to show where aid of various types is most needed
  • Using “fuzzy” keyword recognition to automatically respond to a variety of questions

TERA is designed with a number of key features to support aid efforts. It is also designed to minimise impact on host GSM networks and to give host networks the security and control that they need. TERA has been well tried and tested in Haiti following the earthquake in 2010.

The IFRC is currently rolling out a programme to install TERA into 40 of the countries that are thought to be most vulnerable to disasters. It is therefore seeking mobile network operators that are prepared to install TERA into their networks and provide SMS messaging services in times of disaster.

First hand information from beneficaries

Naomi Fils-Aimé
“I received two SMS around the end of October. The first was about cholera and the second was about the hurricane. The message about cholera was very good. It explained how to prevent cholera by washing hands."
Andrena Geffrard
"I have received a lot of SMS from the Red Cross. The last one I received talked about hurricane and what to do in heavy rains – like do not cross any rivers, keep the children and your family close to you."
Steve Julien
"I would very much like to receive SMS from Red Cross. I haven’t received any yet, but somebody told me that Red Cross has a free line service which is *733 where people can call for free and get all the information they need and I think this is great."
"Red Cross messages are good to use, I think that I have received about 5 or 6 already and they helped me a lot to get myself prepared for either hurricane or flood. Even before this hurricane Red Cross warned me about what to do in a hurricane."

Related articles

Key Features of TERA

TERA has a number of key features, such as targeted messaging,automatic response, multi-network ...

Haiti case study

Working with Trilogy International Partners’ wireless subsidiary in Haiti – Voilà, the ...