Cloudflare TV

🌐 Project Galileo Spotlight: Information Technology Disaster Resource Center

Presented by Jocelyn Woolbright, Dustin Li
Originally aired on 

Welcome to Cloudflare Impact Week 2022!

Cloudflare's mission is to help build a better Internet. We believe a better Internet can be not only a force for good, but an engine of global sustainability. This week we'll be highlighting an array of initiatives inspired by these optimistic ideals, as well as stories from partners who share them.

In this episode, tune in for a conversation with Dustin Li, Specials Programs Director, ITDRC (Information Technology Disaster Resource Center).

Tune in all week for more news, announcements, and thought-provoking discussions!

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For more, don't miss the Cloudflare Impact Week Hub


Transcript (Beta)

Hello, everybody. Welcome to Impact Week.

I'm super excited for this session.

We're actually going to be doing a little project, Galileo Spotlight.

So if you're not already familiar, Project Galileo is one of our largest projects that we have here at Cloudflare.

We started it in 2014 with the idea that organizations that work in disaster relief or human rights or journalism kind of need these upgraded types of protections to be able to stay online, either to help their volunteers or if they're hit with the attack, making sure that they are reliable and they can continue their operations.

And specifically for this impact week. We're super excited that we're announcing kind of our expansion of our zero trust suite to all organizations under Galileo that we currently have and also future organizations that plan on being under the project.

But for this session, I'm really excited to be joined by Justin by Destin.

He's from the Information Technology Disaster Resource Center.

And we're going to be talking a little bit about his organization and also a little bit about Galileo and how they use some of our Zero Trust products.

But honestly, it's really great to talk with organizations under Galileo and hear more about the really awesome work that they're doing.

So, Dustin, thank you for coming on TV.

I'm curious, what is your background?

How did you get started at TD or C?

We said it to be here.

Thanks, Jocelyn. So I've actually been in this response for about nine years now.

So I started with the United Nations in the Philippines working on Typhoon Yolanda back in 2013, hopped over to Cisco Tactical Operations.

They also have a disaster response team.

And then most recently, I've been working with DRC, first as a volunteer for about five or six years.

And then I kind of joined here C full time to run our COVID 19 operations at the beginning of the pandemic.

So that's basically how I got to see.

I've been kind of like a nerd for my whole life, and I really wanted to find a way to use my skills for good in disasters and see how I could make a personal impact.

And disaster response has been a really amazing way to do that and has been.

Yeah, I love that.

I think specifically, like with disaster response, it involves so many different type of people with so many different types of backgrounds and expertise.

Like how did you learn the skills like in college?

What did you major in?

What is like the typical path for somebody that does like disaster relief?

Yeah, I think there's probably not a very typical path.

I was I majored in electrical engineering and computer science in college, went into grad school working on biomedical engineering, neuro prosthesis, neuro engineering.

And then sometime during my graduate degree, that typhoon hit in the Philippines.

And I was like, Man, I really want to use my time and my my skills that I use that I just I do stuff for fun, like on the back end in my spare time playing around with like, EC2 in the very early days of it.

Cloudflare Of course, I've used a lot of these things for kind of personal projects, so it's like, how do I is there a way that I can use my interest in tech and combine that with my desire to help people?

So I ended up just basically cold calling the UN.

I was like, Hey, do you guys need like a volunteer to come with you to the Philippines?

And they're like, Sure. So I went out to the Philippines, like not really knowing a whole lot about disaster response, but I learned a lot and I was like, whoa, like, you can make we can make such a huge difference in people's lives just by setting up something as simple as a wi fi connection.

Because let's say you're like the World Food Program and you need to ship tons like literal tons of food into disaster response to make sure that people get fed.

How do you do that if you don't have any communications?

Because the hurricane has knocked out all your landlines, knocked out the power, it's knocked out the wi fi.

You can't make calls, you can't send SMS or WhatsApp, you can't send emails.

How do you coordinate a disaster response without having comms?

So I quickly learned on the ground in the Philippines that just by doing something like relatively simple from the technology perspective, we could really make a huge impact in how disaster response gets delivered and also on the people in the lives of the people who have been affected by the disaster.

So imagine that you just went through like a huge, a huge kind of life changing event.

So whether it's a hurricane or a wildfire which kind of burned out your home or maybe you had to your refugee from Syria and you just landed in Greece and you're like, how do I reconnect with my family?

How do I tell them that I'm safe?

Where do I go next?

Where do I go, what do I do for shelter?

What do I do for food?

What do you do for wealth? For water?

And having the Internet, of course, is like a huge, huge way to answer a lot of those questions.

So you can we can really make a huge impact in people's lives just by giving them that little bit of communications.


No, that's really interesting to hear. And I think like, especially if you work in those types of situations with people that have lost everything, you really have to learn a sense, have a sense of like empathy and really like try and provide as much as you can in the work that you do.

So it sounds like you're really passionate about it, which I always really love to see, but so I love you.

Can you just give an overview of DRC and like, what does your disaster response look like?

Yeah, absolutely.

So we are a nonprofit based in the US and we often respond to natural disasters like the hurricanes and wildfires and tornadoes that I had mentioned earlier.

And as I mentioned, like communications is often an issue in these situations.

So what we'll do is we'll often deploy like wi fi to a shelter or we'll set up comms at like a like a medical site, or we'll support like radio communications at a fire camp for the firefighters that come in from all over the country working on these like giant wildfires in California.

And so basically, we're kind of like the emergency I.T.

on call for a lot of these disasters where you have a lot of people who are who might be responding to disaster, but they need to have like infrastructure built up really quickly in order to be able to effectively respond.

So that's kind of one piece of it.

Like we do the wi fi, we do phones, we do we deploy a ton of laptops for the pandemic for kids to get online.

We have tablets, printers, really anything it really that you can think of is probably something that we touch.

So actually in the background, it's the virtual background behind me.

This is our warehouse where we've got like literally thousands of assets that are staged and ready to deploy into these disasters.

So we've got the routers and switches and we've even got things like charging stations because everyone's got a phone and they want to be able to communicate with their families or do their work and you have to have power for that.

So we partner with some great kind of solar nonprofits and we provide charging stations to go along with them so everyone can make sure that their devices are powered up.

So I think that's probably kind of a good overview of immediacy.

Like really anything that a typical I.T department might provide inside that company.

We provide for disaster response because disaster responses are basically like you build a city of people to help try to get people back on their feet, as well as for the shelters and the things that directly impact the people who have been affected by disaster.


So it's like you're actually helping the people who are on the ground and then you're helping the people who are also helping the people on the ground as well.

Because as you said, communication is something that everybody needs and especially in a disaster response, like you need the experts that understand, like, how do we get the organizations connected so they can help the people that are on the ground.

But I'm curious what like what is a normal day when you go to a disaster response?

Like what does that process look like? I know you work with a range of private sector companies, like when you get to a disaster response, like, can you walk us through what that looks like?


So? So we always say that every disaster is pretty different. So it can range from a relatively small scale disaster.

And I say relatively because even in the smallest senses, like even if you just have like a tornado that's just like wiped out one small city, like that can be a huge impact on people's lives.

But kind of relatively localized scale, we're just kind of talking about like a town, a population like 500 people or something like that.

And in those cases, you know, it's it's, I guess, relatively simple to figure out what needs to be done.

There may not be like the destruction may be more geographically in one place rather than spread out across an entire state or the panhandle or but then we're going to go to all the other other side of this where we're dealing with like Hurricane Ian, where we have hundreds or thousands of cities that have been impacted, millions of people.

And we set up like hundreds of sites across the area.

So every disaster is pretty different.

But I guess in general, what we do first is kind of like a little bit of recon.

So first we figure out like, is there a need for us to be there?

Like, we don't want to be there if there's if there isn't.

We don't want to get in the way of anything.

And then I guess the second thing is like, what is it that they need?

What problem can we solve for them?

How can we help in the most efficient way, the fastest way?

One of the great things about our nonprofit is that being a nonprofit, we're much more agile than a lot of the government agencies.

So we're able to get in, make decisions really fast, and deploy a gear without a lot of the restrictions or constraints that a normal government agency might have.

So we do have like great partnerships with our friends at FEMA and with many other states, emergency operations centers.

And we are often kind of like the, I guess, the tip of the spear for a lot of those operations where they need someone to be in there right away and can get past that red tape.

So that's kind of the start of it where we figure out what's needed and then we try to match that against our inventory.

So like I said, we've got in this warehouse behind me, we've got thousands of access points, riders, switches, phones and all sorts of other tech gear.

How do we leverage this and our 3000 plus volunteer base in order to deploy the these resources into disaster area?

Oh, and I should also say, in addition to being relatively red tape free and very quick to move, everything that we do is totally free.

Right, Because we're nonprofit.

We don't charge anything for our services.

And we have to like it's kind of funny because we always have to convince people that there are really no strings attached.

We promise like that you will never see an invoice from us unless you want one and you want to donate to us.

But, but, but yeah.

So that's that's basically the process.

So like, figure out what they need.

Figure out how we can help and then just go ahead and deploy our volunteers and assets for sometimes it's kind of in and out.

So we've got like people on the ground for maybe a week or two.

Sometimes it's like Hurricane Ian where we still have people on the ground after several months.

Sometimes it's like COVID 19 where we're going to have people doing this basically forever.

So yeah, it depends a lot.

But I guess bottom line, we try to help as much as we can and we have a lot of really, really awesome volunteers who really want to do good for the world.

Do a lot of the volunteers, do they like range from backgrounds as well?

Because I imagine, like some of them have to be able to be able to understand like the technical expertise of like getting people connected, but also like the other side of that is like more of the organizational aspects of like, yeah, like what supplies do we have?

How do we get the supplies there?

Like, what is, what is the typical volunteer look like?

Totally, Yeah.

So we've got of course we've got the geeks and engineers like, like me.

So these are the people who might be designing like a really simple wi fi network on the ground, configuring routers and switches and apps and running cable.

And a lot of what we do is just like the physical stuff, like we got to when you set up a Wi-Fi access point, like you have to run cable and sometimes it's just like really challenging.

So we have a lot of people who specialize on the network side of things and the technical side of things.

But we've also got folks like our logistics director who figure out how do we get gear to Haiti and how do we get gear to the Bahamas, and what does that what does that take?

Like, how do we move our people? How do we get the right partnerships with the nonprofits, the other nonprofits and the agencies, the government agencies on the ground to be effective in this operation?

And then we also got project manager. So we actually one of our newest state coordinators is a really awesome project manager who is able to keep 1000 balls in the air because disaster is like I said, it's total chaos.

There's a lot of fog of war. So making sure that everything is kind of on track to making that highest impact and we aren't kind of missing or forgetting anything and everything's documented.

So it's sustainable in the long term.

That's that's a big thing for us to.

So we welcome volunteers from all backgrounds.

So as long as you are interested in doing good, we definitely welcome you to join us.

I love that.

I'm like, can I. Can I join from Portugal?


So we are we are actually starting to expand internationally. So we're primarily US focused.

We do most of our disasters in the US, but we did the Bahamas for Hurricane Dorian a couple of years ago.

We did Haiti last year.

So we certainly welcome people from around the world to sign up.

We may not be able to deploy you immediately, but maybe sometime down the future.

In the future there could be a scenario where something happens near you in Portugal, perhaps.

Hopefully not.

But having people on the ground and kind of in the local area with the context is super, super helpful.

Yeah, definitely So I'm curious if you have any stories about like when you went into a disaster and like everything was just experience, like the unexpected and everything was not what you wanted it to be.

I'm curious if you have any interesting stories like that.


So I think Haiti is a really good story where, you know, it's just it was so far kind of outside of our normal distribution of disasters, like at a far extreme end of like, wow, we.

So I guess maybe let me take a step back.

So sometime in the fall of last year, there was a big earthquake that happened in Haiti.

It impacted a lot of people, of the locals who were in the mountainous areas.

And it was a really challenging kind of context. So very rural, difficult to access even on a normal day where getting around Haiti can be quite challenging due to security concerns due to the road infrastructure.

And then you've got normal challenges like there's not there wasn't a full time cell connectivity there to start with and power was kind of issue.

So really, really kind of.

We wanted to make sure that we would be doing much more good than harm.

We want to make sure that we're not taking resources away when we go into disaster areas from the people who are most impacted by this disaster.

But we were able to find this really amazing partners on the ground that helped us to connect us to the organizations, local nonprofits who understood the context and had really big needs for having adequate communications to be able to deploy medical clinics into these really rural areas, as well as to bring shelter.

Just even like bringing like tin roofing and water to a lot of these areas. It was super, super challenging.

And again, like if you don't have communications, if you can't if you drive like a whole day to get to the disaster area and then you can't communicate back to your headquarters or home base and say, hey, we need like 20 more home kits or we need like 500 more gallons of water or, or there are roadblocks in Haiti too.

So if you can't send SOS to say, Hey, we need help because we've been stopped at this at this checkpoint, then that's a really big operational challenge, like being able to coordinate for medical clinics, like how do you coordinate their staffing and the medical and the medicine that gets sent up into these into these really rural areas.

Again, communication is a huge, huge game changer.

Like if you can send just like even a simple WhatsApp or like a SMS or if you can make a call like that, that would really that really kind of changed how nonprofits could operate and made them much more able to get the goods, the medical equipment and the relief goods into these areas really quickly and not have to waste time driving, trying to drive back and forth across the island and getting to these really rural sites.

So that was really unexpected in many, many different ways, but tremendously rewarding.

I think we ended up setting up around 15 sites of connectivity.

So sometimes it was wi fi for a medical clinic. Sometimes it was something as simple as providing SAT phones for these kind of roaming nonprofits.

Sometimes it was providing satellite communicators for these for the first responders.

And we were also able to partner with this orphanage who helped us to get around the island and essentially became our fixer, which was pretty amazing.

They did amazing, amazing work in Haiti. There were a local orphanage that had been there for years and years.

And so many of the kids at the orphanage, they were really excited about the stuff that we're doing.

They'd never seen the gear that we were deploying, the routers and the access points and the switches and the laptops that we were deploying, and they really want to learn.

And that was that was like an incredible opportunity for us because we were able to not only to use their help in getting around the island and also installing this.

But we're also able to transfer skills to them that they could use to not only to maintain the networks that we deployed, but also to build careers in the technology field, which aren't like it's very difficult to get good education in that area.

So being able to provide hands on training kind of just in time training for a lot of this.

Was really amazing. So yeah, that was that was I guess that's my story from Haiti and I'll I know I'll stop and.

Know I love that I think a lot like at the end you're talking about like more of the community aspect and I think a big part and this might be wrong but like it's so much a big part of disaster relief is like how communities come together to help each other and like being able to bring in organizations from outside to teach them like what this looks like in practice and be able to teach the skills is like so important to be able to make it sustainable for people.

When you do leave a disaster and when things do get back on track like these skills are going to be so relevant for everybody.

I love these pictures.

Can you talk a little bit about them? So this is one of the photos from Haiti, and this was when we were actually running a cable clipping clinic for the for the orphanage, essentially.

So these kids on the left, they were helping us to deploy a lot of the access points and cabling.

And they were so excited to see what we were doing and what we're up to.

So I don't know if you've ever crimped like RJ 45 Connector and it's kind of a pain, but they were so, so into it and, and it was really kind of really kind of heartwarming in many ways to, to be able to work with them so closely and to help them feel like that, that they could also make an impact, even though they have so little to work with.

So that was really great.

This is just another view.

We were this was later on in our response.

We can see that we've given them our nonprofit shirts, our t shirts, and here we were helping them to practice, setting up a wi fi network for another one of the nonprofits in Haiti.

So again, trying to make this super sustainable, another kind of situation where we were helping people get access to radio.

So this was interesting because they were without radios.

They there was no cell network in the area or the network wasn't working.

And what they had to do was basically drive up and down the mountain like 3 hours each way in order to say just to say, Hey, we need more, we need more food up here.

So this kind of cut, the roundtrip communication like way, way down.

So yeah, and another view of the clinic that they were so into so very cool.

Yeah, that's awesome.

So we have 5 minutes, and I have to ask you, so how do you use our Zero Trust products?

Like, what does this look like? And disaster relief?

I've always, like, frugal.

I love I get so caught up and talking about the organizations.

I'm like, Oh yeah.

But tell us how you use it. Yeah.

So I actually I learned about Galileo, I think, when I started ramping up our COVID 19 response.

So what we needed was we needed a way to.

So basically a scale or a back end really quickly.

And we needed essentially serverless serverless functions to be able to connect to several other backend systems.

So for example, from between Slack and our inventory management system, where we manage like 30,000 assets, we needed a way to build a connector there.

Cloudflare Workers was kind of the first thing that we that we jumped on because I was like, Oh man, this is so performant and so fast.

Really, It was, it was really kind of it helped tremendously with our kind of operational capability to get our volunteers into our inventory system and be able to kind of check like what's available, what's where, and also kind of check their own employability.

So do they have all the credentialing that they need to deploy out with us?

They have all the training done.

Do they have their background checks done and things like that.

So that was qualified workers.

And that's kind of how we got started with Galileo.

But since then, we've also kind of touched a lot of other different Cloudflare products.

So like Tunnels and Gateway, or I guess we should talk about like access and tunnels since you're talking about Zero Trust.

So we have a lot of systems that we run that are kind of open source and we maintain them ourselves.

And sometimes things like log jam are around and we need to deal with security issues.

So if we can prevent or if we can avoid opening ports to the public Internet as much as possible, that's kind of one thing that we really like to do to avoid.

And so with tunnels, you know, we can just put a client Cloudflare DX on the server and then we all we need to do is make sure that it can make outbound connection to Cloudflare And then the access side, we make sure that with role based access control, we can make sure the right volunteers have access to that resource without having to make it open to the entire public.

Without this, it'd be really probably pretty challenging for us.

Our volunteers are all over the US and the world and making them kind of tunnel into a centralized VPN doesn't really make sense for us.

It would kind of degrade performance quite a bit.

So Tunnels and access has been kind of like a really good way for us to solve that problem.

Gateway. We also use so for our sites that we deploy onto the field, like again, if we're serving a bunch of firefighters in working on a wildfire, we want to make sure that when they turn on their laptop for the first time in six months and they pull it out of the Pelican Box in case they aren't immediately exposed to all the malware and ransomware that might prevent them from doing their jobs.

So Gateway, of course, helps us to prevent or kind of block a lot of the malware and phishing at the DNS level.

So that's kind of also a security feature that we want to make sure that we're doing much more good than we are harm.

So making sure that we provide the appropriate level of security for our clients is really important to.

So does that answer your question?


No, that's great. I always love hearing the different ways that Galilee organizations use, like workers or tunnels or Gateway, because it helps future Galileo organizations figure out what that looks like in their environment.

So I love especially environmental disaster relief.

Like, it's it's really interesting to see how it actually impacts people who are like on the ground.

But we have one minute left.

So I want to know, like, what's next for DRC?

Like, what are you excited about?

How can we learn more?

Yeah, So to learn more, you can visit our website.

I don't think I can see it, but we're good.

You're on mute, though.

Got it.

Okay. Sorry. So. So if you want to learn more about it, you can go to our website.

You can volunteer there.

You can donate there.

And this is a great way to also to partner with us.

So we have great partnerships with organizations like Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Cloudflare, of course.

And a lot of these companies will deploy employees out with us.

So after hurricane hits, they want to find a way for their employees to use their skills to help in the disasters.

Of course, like Amazon and Google and Facebook and Microsoft, like all of these people, have really amazing tech workers with these really amazing skills.

How can we do the most good with those skills?

And so we kind of act as a conduit for a lot of those employees to come out with us, provide everything they need.

Everything the companies need to do those deployments, we kind of handle everything from the logistics, the flights, the hotels, and we handle all of the kind of the prep work that recon we provide all the equipment.

So this is a really kind of great way for companies to get involved.

But if you're an individual, this is also a great way.

So if you do org, you can send up as an individual volunteer and you can use your skills like it says, to be a hero and you can really, really make an impact in people's lives.

Thanks so much for joining and thanks to everybody.

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