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Pitch

We Are Ready is a platform to crowd source disaster info, send disaster alerts, plan evacuation, track people & identify medical needs


Description

Summary

As eloquently put in an AAAS article, “What we know: The reality, risks and response to climate change”, most disasters are directly or indirectly related to climate changes and we are the main culprits of this change. Unless we realize it, educate people around us, take necessary action against it, we might see more of these disasters, claiming more than what we can live with. 

There are many International organizations, Humanitarian relief organizations, Development agencies, Army and other military services, Cities, State authorities, regional authorities and NGOs who are actively involved in Disaster Management around the world, who spend decades, studying the climate change, identifying disasters through various means, alerting citizens, ramping up rescue, recovery and reconstruction, in their own way, through experience of doing it earlier or as prescribed by some other organization elsewhere. This leads to multiple solutions of information capture and information sharing with volunteers and citizens in harm’s way.

We propose a simple, cost effective platform We Are Ready (WAR) that any Disaster Management Organization can immediately get on board, use this as an add-on to their existing way of citizen interactions, get existing volunteers on board, recruit new ones faster, train, share resources like do’s and don’ts during disaster, enticing citizens to participate, educate themselves on how to identify anomalies that can turn into full blow disaster some day and alert them. 

With mass proliferation of internet connected smart phones worldwide, information collection, processing and dissemination has become a norm. We propose to provide Cross platform mobile applications for citizens and volunteers and a website for disaster management organizations. We will also open up APIs for any disaster management organization to integrate their existing applications with our API.

Block diagram of components


Category of the action

Adaptation


What actions do you propose?

Today we have many International organizations, Humanitarian relief organizations, Development agencies, Army and other military services, Cities, State authorities, regional authorities and NGOs who are involved in Disaster Management or Disaster Recovery, use myriad of tools and mechanisms to alert citizens of impending or happening disaster, recruit and train volunteers, alert them during emergency, plan prevention, mitigation, evacuation, restoration and reconstruction etc. 

We would like them to use the We Are Ready (WAR) platform, to import existing volunteers, signup new volunteers, alert citizens of specific area, crowd source disaster alerts from citizens, coordinating volunteers, ration and medical supplies to disaster hit area.

What we envision and propose is, a We Are Ready (WAR) platform, that one fine day, all disaster management organizations are all on board this platform and have a uniform way of crowd sourcing the warnings and threats from citizens, communicating to citizens about preparedness, dos and don’ts, evacuation routes, rescue plans, addressing and empowering volunteers and local authorities with information to better address and manage the disaster.There are three kinds of actors in this proposal

  • Disaster Management Organizations (DMO)
  • Citizens
  • Volunteers ( First Responders / Rescue teams / Local authorities like police, hospitals, NGOs / Doctors )

 

Disaster Management Organizations

Once the platform on boards a disaster management organization, user of the organization can use the platform to

  • Import existing volunteers and signup and train new volunteers
  • Curate citizen generated information about the impending/happening disaster, get it verified by local volunteers
  • Share their plan of evacuation and rescue camps setup locations etc., with volunteers and citizens
  • Alert unsuspecting citizens, who could be in the path of destruction of the disaster, to move to safe zones via predicted evacuation routes
  • Send alerts on do’s and don’ts to citizens before or during the disaster event
  • Alert volunteers (first responders, local authorities like police, hospitals, NGOs, doctors) of impending disaster, request their participation, plan their activities
  • Co-ordinate rations, medical supplies, air lifting critical patients to nearby cities etc.
  • Alert their near and dear ones of people who have arrived at refugee camps, about their whereabouts without hogging already cluttered, broken communication lines, so that they can be used for better purposes
  • Use cheap NFC tags to track down rescued citizens, to alert their friends and family of their whereabouts, provide proper diagnosis based on the citizen provided details
  • Redirect misdirected alerts to respective organizations Share volunteers among organizations

 

We propose a simple cross platform hybrid mobile app and a web application that

  • Can work as an add on for their existing system
  • Can have list of local authorities like police, hospitals, NGOs of their jurisdiction so that they can easily reach them on the platform
  • Can allow users to sign up as volunteers or first responders and validate them, categorize them
  • Can sign up doctors, local authorities like police, hospitals, NGOs to use this platform to easily reach out in case of emergencies
  • Can receive alerts from citizens and cross check the information with local authorities like police, hospitals, NGOs, volunteers
  • Create a disaster perimeter and evacuation paths and send the details as push alerts to Citizens, Volunteers, First responders, local authorities like police, hospitals, NGOs and doctors 
  • System will check if the push alerts are not responded, a follow up SMS or call will be sent.
  • In peace time, can send alerts with Do’s and Don’ts in case of emergency
  • Is Multi lingual and user can optionally translate the text in different language to their native language 
  • Can integrate their existing applications with APIs provided by the platform to have seamless access to the data.

 

Key aspects of this solution are as below

All the above said organizations which are been there for long time have best practices in place which new and emerging organizations in other parts of the world do not have that expertise ore experience.

All these organizations have a common goal to serve humanity and save it from disasters. As this platform can share videos, audio, documents, flyers for educating citizens can be shared among other related organizations there by saving lot of time and effort to rebuild those artifacts. Also a good translation service can be engaged to translate the content to multiple languages, and later customized to local flavor. 

Citizens – Rescue Me App

We propose a simple cross platform mobile app called ‘Rescue Me’ that 

  • Any citizen with least amount of technology awareness to operate Is more visual with easily identifiable icons and less text
  • Has minimum text that is completely internationalized, so that it shows the language the phone is configured to use
  • Validates phone number as login instead of username and password or any social login etc., to keep it simple
  • Allows user to subscribe to disaster monitoring organizations for information and alerts
  • Receive information form disaster monitoring organizations like dos and don’ts,  evacuation plan, nearest refugee camp, ration and medical aid availability etc.
  • If the push notifications that are sent by organizations are not been acknowledged for at least 4 hours, service can be configured to send SMS or Call the user
  • Alert the Disaster monitoring organizations, of the anomalies of nature, like unexpected rise in water level,  that could potentially become full blown disasters at later stage, or actual happening disaster
  • Allows user to send alerts to Disaster monitoring organizations with type of disaster, severity, location, optionally, their observation, attach audio, pictures and videos with fall back mechanism as sending the info as SMS/MMS when no data connection available
  • Call for rescue, optionally enable tracking to allow the organizations track their whereabouts for rescuing 
  • Can track the location of the user when one is traveling and configure user to receive alerts from local Disaster management organizations. For example, if a US Citizen is traveling to China, and there is an Earthquake alert, user will automatically receive if one is in the disaster perimeter. Most often than not, the alert will be in Chinese. User can click on Translate button to translate that alert text to his language, and instantly it will be translated using Bing/Google Translate APIs. 
  • Optionally provide details like emergency contacts, medical conditions so that doctors at refugee camp or hospital, can avoid wrong diagnosis etc.

 

Key aspects of this app are as follows. 

This app will be designed keeping in mind that privacy concerned people, who will feel insecure about sharing their information, track their location, share medical conditions with anybody through an app. Almost everything is optional. Also, because most actionable parts of the app are more visual and less text, any smartphone user will be able to navigate through app very easily. 

User will receive alerts from those organizations to whom he has subscribed to and the organizations who think he is in disaster zone and needs to be evacuated. So, not all alerts from all organizations will come to the user. 

Because the app is supposed to be void of security mechanisms like username password, because, the user might forget/not remember at times of emergency. But this might also lead to lot of false alarms, where one inadvertent click by user or kids might trigger an alert. So we propose a 4 digit pin as security mechanism. However if user does not remember it, we can configure it to open the app without pin if user touches and holds the screen for more than 5 or 8 seconds. 

We can also provide a test simulations for user in the app on how to send an alert so that one does not send alert while testing the app.

This is the only one app that user has to use for all sorts of disaster alerts near him or one volunteers for.

For people with feature phones, we have a different flow. They have to send SMS to specific number, in specific format that includes their city name, and they will be registered with the service. If there is an emergency, they will be able to send message in specific format that includes type of emergency and location. Service can also send SMS to alert these users to move to safety. Most commonly used phones are Nokia. We can have a simple app depending on the feature set availability that prepares and sends SMS with more details.

Volunteers (First Responders / Rescue teams / Local authorities like police, hospitals, NGOs, Doctors) – WeAreReady App

These users are citizens with additional responsibilities. Through the platform the organizations can empower these users once the user signs up, or when organizations recruit them, with more features on ‘We Are Ready’ to communicate with the organization. 

We propose cross platform mobile app called ‘We Are Ready’ that

  • Has all the features available in Rescue Me app, and users of this app can do all those actions, citizens do.
  • Username and password will be provided by the platform and once the subscribed disaster management organization approves the user as a valid trained volunteer or / First Responders / Rescue teams / Local authorities like police, hospitals, NGOs, Doctors, user will be able to login to the mobile app.
  • Allows user to receive alerts from Disaster Management Organizations, respond to validate requests from organizations to check citizen claim of disaster
  • While all others in this group will be able to scan and tag the user to location, doctors will have additional access to citizen’s medical details, blood group etc and they will be able to record the diagnosis through the app so that if the citizen is moved to next hospital, the other doctor will have access to that information.

 

Key aspects of the app are as follows

Users of this app would be able to relay the message to respective authorities, local radio stations to announce, show the alerts on local digital billboards, have a town hall meetings etc

Most of the alerts raised by the citizens have to be whetted to be true. So when the org sends the information to users of this app, they will be able to verify the claim and record it as either genuine or fake. That saves lot of money, time and effort from organizations to verify.

In both the mobile apps, in case of no internet/data connection being available, the alerts or actions user is taking will be recorded locally and whenever there is a better connection, it will send to the server. Also as a fall back mechanism, SMS will be sent to the server in specific format. Even in this case, if there is a weak signal, it will be recorded for later syncing when there is better connection.


Some of the application screenshots for Citizen app 'Rescue me' are as below. Images are for indication purpose only. Actual app is still under first design iteration

Registration and Login screens
Login screen

After login 
Welcome screen

On the fly translations for alert text and settings
On the fly transalations

Citizen Alert screen shown with different languages .. Afrikaans, Arabic, Chinese and SpanishAfrikaans, Arabic, Chinese, Spanish

In progress design screens of WeAreReady app for volunteers 


Who will take these actions?

Disaster Management Organizations (DMO)

  • They will sign up on the platform, get users who are in charge of communications to registered Volunteers have to be on boarded with the platform
  • Import the list of Volunteers  already existing in their systems on to the platform, and inform them on how to use the WeAreReady app.
  • Do some field trials, simulations to understand the effectiveness of the platform
  • Do PR activities around the usage of the platform to sign up more volunteers
  • Act on citizen alert claims by confirming the validity through volunteers
  • Plan and alert people in the disaster zone to move to safety using the platform
  • Mobilize and manage the Volunteers (First Responders / Rescue teams / Local authorities like police, hospitals, NGOs, Doctors) at the rescue camps with medical supplies and rations.

 

Citizens

  • Download the app on their smartphones Register themselves to be users
  • Subscribe to alerts from disaster management organizations
  • Alert the organizations of impending disaster or ongoing disaster
  • Call  for rescue 
  • Optionally share their location for tracking them
  • Share their personal and medical details so that doctors can diagnose better

 

Volunteers (First Responders / Rescue teams / Local authorities like police, hospitals, NGOs, Doctors)

  • Download the app on their smartphones Login with credentials provided by the platform
  • Subscribe to alerts from disaster management organizations
  • Respond to validate requests from organizations to check citizen claim of disaster
  • Alert the organizations of impending disaster or ongoing disaster
  • Call  for rescue Share their personal and medical details so that doctors can diagnose better
  • Relay the alert messages from the organizations to respective authorities, local radio stations to announce, show the alerts on local digital billboards, have a town hall meetings etc.

Flow


Where will these actions be taken?

If a Citizen has downloaded Rescue Me app on their smartphone, registered his/her phone number and logged in, he/she can send alerts about an impending/ongoing disaster from anywhere on the world. 

Same goes with the volunteers, who have downloaded the WeAreReady app on their smartphone. They can take actions for verifying the citizen claims, issue NFC tags to rescued people.

Disaster management organization users can use the website from anywhere in the world where there is an internet connection.

The platform is location agnostic.


What are other key benefits?

  • Very less investment and high visibility and effective system
  • More lives saved from disasters because of effective and faster communication between DMOs, Citizens and Volunteers
  • Constant feedback on incoming rescued people, outgoing treated patients, can help properly manage rations and medical supplies
  • Multilingual applications, visual actions rather than text in unknown language will make it easier for citizens to report early signs of disaster or disaster faster and easier
  • On the fly translations help citizens and volunteers act faster
  • Geo targeted alerts sent to people in and around the disaster zone, will ensures less spamming
  • By sending SMS/App message to emergency contacts at each checkpoints, will reduce unnecessary hogging of communication channels
  • With medical information provided by citizens help doctors provide better diagnosis, and any doctor using the app to scan the tag, will be able to get previous diagnosis to make informed diagnosis


What are the proposal’s costs?

  • Android, iOS, Windows Phones and Blackberry are most commonly used smartphone platforms. Other less used platforms are Tizen, FirefoxOS and Bada. 
  • For Citizens, RescueMe app will be built as hybrid app, so that we can target all platforms using Cordova and will support Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Blackberry, Tizen, FirefoxOS and Bada phones. Expected costs will be around $2000
  • For Volunteers, WeAreReady app will need NFC tags have to be identified and acted upon, we have to go native application development. We propose using Xamarin so that we write and manage one codebase and deploy to Android and Windows Phone. Apple iPhones currently do not support NFC and iPhone6 is rumoured to have NFC capability. So same codebase can be extended for iOS apps too. Expected costs will be around $2500
  • For the Platform for Disaster Management organizations, we propose a Mobile ready website and APIs for both RescueMe and WeAreReady apps. We will also provide API end points for Disaster Management Organizations for integrating with their existing applications. We expect development costs around $5000. 
  • Hosting we can do on Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft Azure, where costs range from $250 to Hosting we can do on Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft Azure, where costs range from $250 to $1000 per month. For not for profits, there might be good offers that might bring down the costs. We have to explore.
  • We will be needing SMS API to send SMS alerts to people who are not using smartphone. Tie-ups with International Mobile service provider would bring costs down later. For now we propose to use Twilio
  • NFC tags costs less than NFC tags costs less than $1 and costs go down if volumes increase and costs go down if volumes increase


Time line

  • Development and deployment will take approximately 4 months
  • Engaging Disaster Management Organizations with a push from ClimateColab and WorldBank would help quicker adaption
  • Existing Volunteers of Disaster management organizations would bring in inorganic growth to user base 
  • The app at later point in time will have options to recruit others by inviting them through app
  • Similarly promotions form Disaster management organizations would help citizen signups. 
  • If we tie up with Smartphone OEMs, we can have RescueMe app installed by default when the mobiles ship. That will reduce one hurdle of app awareness, discovery and installation. 


Related proposals

Public Engagement to increase Situational Awareness in Disasters (PENSAD) 


References

  • Original idea was planned around events like last year's Chardham yatra incident where June last year, cloudbursts and massive rainfall devastated the Hindu pilgrimage Centre of Badrinath and Kedernath and other places of tourist and pilgrim's interest.We have expanded the scope of this project to suit almost any kind of disaster risk management. We had presented this idea for Code For Resilience. We were one of the finalists in Code For Resilience contest
  • Current version is a much refined, generic and cost effective approach of disaster management, applicable to any kind of disaster
  • Missed Call OTP  is a zero cost mobile phone authentication model. Not a very reliable model as missed call might not arrive if the receiving phone is not switched on or having a weak signal. But works effectively is most scenarios.
  • Phonegap/Cordova provides a set of uniform JavaScript libraries that can be invoked, with device-specific native backing code for those JavaScript libraries. Cordova is available for the following platforms: iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone, Palm WebOS, Bada, and Symbian. We can deploy a hybrid app across these platforms in very less time. As RescueMe app needs to be in many devices, we chose Cordova as a platform for building it.
  • With Xamarin one can write native apps entirely in C#, sharing the same code on iOS, Android, Windows, Mac and more. We will be using this platform for WeAreReady app, because NFC functionality can be implemented very easily with this.
  • If in future ITU/Global Telecommunication providers offer a single, global toll free number for disaster alerts, SMS/Text based solution can be built around it.