When Disaster Strikes, there is no app for that — until we build it together
REALITY: Up to 15,000 homes are lost in CA this month with 50,000 potentially displaced across many counties. The worst hit areas of Paradise and Magalia are still cataloguing the missing and dead with hundreds unaccounted for. Managing response teams, organizations and the data is an ongoing challenge along with a lack of shelters for weathering the winter.
When disaster teams come together to respond to situations like this, there are no apps that tell us who is who or where to go. We have to build it every time, on the fly, with the loosest of open source protocols and networks on call from NGOs and agencies to data geeks. That’s where YOU come in.
To manage the data and volunteer matching needs after the #CampFire we are hosting a hackathon starting this weekend throughout December to help the residents of Butte County recover and renew hope for a future with shelter and safe spaces for 50,000+ displaced people in the region. You can RSVP to join us for a day, remotely or travel up to the areas outside Paradise in Chico and Oroville to work with volunteers on the ground to rapidly respond to these challenges. Recovery, Remediation, Rebuilding and Renewal.
Recovery: Rescue and Immediate Response Tools
Data scientists and ANDE, Drones and Smartglasses are especially useful to emergency responders, firefighters and the people who are on the first lines of these disaster teams. This includes giving heads up displays to firefighters so that they can see through the firestorm to the other side of a situation in real time, with maps and awareness of where their colleagues are working. Fire management is one of the key ways XR technologies will hopefully improve our ability to respond to exponential crisis.
Over the next few weeks we aim to prototype tools like this that can be useful via app or smartglasses for emergency management and response teams to work together effectively to map mudslide/fire areas and work with evacuation teams quickly to minimize loss of human life.
Rapid Shelters and Rehousing Solutions
A few weeks ago one of our colleagues, Tom Price, donated his RV to fire victims to provide a safe and hopefully warm place to make it through the winter. Many others began donating trailers, RVs and shelters of all types to help people get out of tents and cars. Now we’re working to match people, trailers and land. Unfortunately many people are still living in tents and cars despite mudslides and evacuation warnings that make the entire region unsafe this week. A local volunteer Allen Myers is handing out cash to help people evacuate mudslides while NGOs and agencies have not been able to meet the severe needs of 50,000+ out of home at one time.
Remediation: Repair for Land and Water
Matthew Trumm at Treetop Permaculture has been working to repair our relationship with the soil and water of this region from his base in Oroville and is now working on a base camp remediation project for the areas outside Paradise. Thanks to amazing donors in the soil, water and shelter spaces Matthew is now receiving in-kind donations including spaces to receive items and volunteers who can help with projects to reduce toxic runoff into the local waterways.
The top 4 in. of soil are considered toxic in Paradise and massive mycelium projects have been discussed to devour melted petroleum and plastic products in the soil. Bring your ideas to the hackathon and hop on a remote call with Matthew’s team or join us in Butte County to help directly.
When situational awareness, teams and orgs working together can all share information effectively in real time we can help move people quickly and find the resources needed to meet basic human needs. Right now we waste days if not weeks looking for resources that may be sitting in someone else’s back yard — there are gaps in our ability to pull up information in real-time while on a construction or recovery site.
Thanks to AR and XR technologies embedded within construction and safety gear, this gap is closing fast. We’re excited to see full computers available in the helmet such as this Moverio or Realwear solution that allows teams to design new sites for shelters in real time with remote teams working with their on-site counterparts. Smartglasses like the ODG, Rokid, Moverio and possibly even the Magic Leap will someday be used for the observational and design collaboration needed to rapidly respond to any crisis and rebuild villages effectively with communities.
Redesigning the Village
When it comes to helping people find new shelters fast, there are a number of resilient solutions that can be employed — how do you know which solution to use and how to build it quickly after entire towns have been destroyed?
At Light Lodges we worked with City Repair and the Village Building Convergence to document a tiny house village being constructed for formerly homeless women outside Portland, OR. Using Unity we then explored how to build new villages that can be deployed quickly in other settings, a method we are now expanding into new web-based platforms like Mozilla Hubs along with 360 photo and video, smartglasses and remote VR architectural programs. We are eager to see how these tools can be used with site planning and engineering professionals to rapidly design new villages.
Models like this can be built for thousands of dollars, often within the budget of agencies like FEMA that can provide emergency housing response in the form of shelters and tiny houses and not just checks to use for hotel rooms that run out in a few weeks. Right now we have thousands of people whose hotel rooms and vouchers have run out and currently have nowhere to go outside Paradise, CA.
Restoration & Renewal in Community
To do this work, we rely on the good will, volunteer efforts, donations and connections of thousands of you working in tandem with the hundreds of thousands of people affected by these crisis.
We want to hear from you — what are the immediate needs in your community? What would help you most to renew and rebuild your lives? What tools are needed for responders to do this work with you effectively? How can XR tools and technologies make this easier for all of us to collaborate?
If you want to be a part of this hackathon and help shape the future of these tools and response endeavors, join us Dec 1 at the Impact Hub in SF or Dec 2 at the Port Workspaces in Oakland, or hop on the remote Zoom calls and work with us as a remote volunteer.
Come to Butte County with us in December! Engineers, architects, data mappers, logistics leads, designers and grantwriters and XR/AR/VR specialists are all needed to do this work along with the amazing first responders and nonprofit orgs working hard to meet the immediate needs with locals. We welcome your hacks, ideas and new projects and will work with you to help get the best ideas incubated and accelerated locally.