Miami’s Day of Civic Hacking 2017

A recap of using tech to build resilience and disaster preparation in the face of post-Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria — it was a long season

On Saturday, October 21st, Code for Miami hosted their fourth annual National Day of Civic Hacking. Each year, hundreds of attendees volunteer their time around the country and internationally to pool their skills and build together.

This year’s event took place on a different date, pushed back due to Hurricane Irma relief efforts. Still feeling the effects of both Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and with effects of Harvey still being tallied up, Code for Miami refocused the event on what could be done to help communities better prepare for the next storm. The goal of Miami Day of Civic Hacking was to come together as a community to come up with prototypes for solutions to add to a digital toolkit.

Now, a few months later, we reflect on what took place, and where each resulting project currently stands today. This is meant to help us see some of the great strides made, and especially, where there’s still room for work to be done.

The day started with remarks from Mike Sarasti, Chief Innovation Officer to the City of Miami. Watch the video here.

He shared that the City of Miami is close to launching their updated website, and their data portal, currently in beta here, which included a preview of the tree permitting data and other coming datasets available to the day’s volunteers.

Our attendees jumped into two workshops before setting off to work in teams: the Value in Data with Athina Hadjixenofontos, the Director of Engagement for the Center for Computational Science at the University of Miami + Learning to Map Your City with Urban Planner, Susana Siman.

Attendees for Athina’s workshop were shown how to work with data, where to look for the trends, and what biases may come into play.

You can register now for a yearlong competition Athina is organizing for the University of Miami: VizUM Visualization Competition.


A view of the day’s challenges

After the morning presentations, groups of volunteers broke off to hack on projects focused around answering to the challenges presented above. We broke for lunch, and got back to it with final presentations taking place late in the afternoon.

A Day’s Work

Tree Permits — Preserve, protect, and enhance the city’s tree canopy. See where tree removal requests have been made, approved, and denied.

An SMS-based solution for helping emergency responders check on your neighbors.

User stories for pre- and post- event visualizations — what situations come up? Who is most at risk?

First steps towards connecting incoming Puerto Ricans with local jobs.

Shelter Concierge Bot — Receive updates based on your zipcode to see which shelter locations are at capacity and which still have availability.

Code 4 Puerto Rico contributed their own project, a piece of mesh-networking-based hardware, meant to connectivity issues throughout Puerto Rico. An ode to the beeper days watch their video presentation here.

To wrap up our event, we had the honor of hosting Jane Gilbert, the Chief Resilience Officer to the City of Miami.

Special thanks to our friends at Boxelder for refreshing our group at the end of a fast paced day.

Many thanks to all of the day’s volunteers, the CIC Miami for hosting us, and Boxelder Craft Beer Market for sponsoring our post-event gathering.

What’s Next

The projects worked on this day are all prototypes, and steps towards solutions for common and not-so-common issues that have arisen in our communities, that have come up under the reflective lens of a post-hurricane environment.

While all were great starts, only a few have lived on past the day:

Jobs for Puerto Ricans. Jorge Besu— “More and more people will find their way to Miami as Puerto Rico continues to recover its infrastructure and get back on the grid. We will continue working on the temp work discovery app focused on natural disaster displaced workers arriving in the U.S. Our MVP will focus on Puerto Rico and USVI hurricane regugees in South Florida.”

Open 2–1–1. This is an ongoing Code for Miami promoted project under Greg Bloom focused on connecting citizens with city service information.

Sea Level Rise Visualization. FIU professor Susan Jacobson continues work on sea level rise and king tide visualizations + data collection events. FIU is also co-sponsoring our upcoming Open Data Day event.

Tree Permitting — Bryce Kerley continues work using City of Miami data to track tree trimming and permitting.

Outside of National Day of Civic Hacking, Code for Miami joined efforts with the Irma response group behind They have since merged with code for Houston’s to continue efforts for disaster tech on a national level. Resources from across the Code for America Brigades are activated and have combined efforts to focus on working on projects that will come in handy when the next big one happens.

Get involved

One of the best ways to respond to a natural disaster is to make your community resilient before finding themselves in the face of the next one. Join us for our next event, Open Data Day, on Saturday March 3rd @ FIU Miami.

Interested in helping carry forward one of the projects listed here? Join Code for Miami every Monday night from 7–9 PM @ the CIC Miami.