Sparking Disaster Preparedness at National Day of Civic Hacking

Oct 31, 2017   |   Celia Moreno, Technology & Civic Innovation Fellow

In light of recent tragedies around the world, Code for San Francisco decided to shake things up a bit for this year’s National Day of Civic Hacking by focusing on resiliency and disaster preparedness in San Francisco. The core team decided to have a one-day event instead of the traditional two, to focus their efforts on truly creating tools for users. This was done by applying Megan Goering’s human-centered design principles and Daniel Homsey’s and Alicia Johnson’s expertise on preparedness in San Francisco.

The event began with introductions from Brigade Captain Jesse Szwedko and Co-Captain Jason Lally. They were followed by Megan Goering, who gave a snapshot into her human-centered design strategies. Although the next item on the agenda was simply an introduction to the Neighborhood Empowerment Network and SF72, guests were surprised to find themselves imagining a 7.1 magnitude earthquake.

The tabletop workshop began abruptly and with little notice to participants — to appropriately simulate an emergency. Daniel Homsey enthusiastically guided attendees off their feet and into working mode. He gave instructions on creating and utilizing the HUB Incident Command System (ICS) which was practiced by completing the exercise, “Run Your Resilientville.” During the exercise, participants split into three groups. One person in each group was designated the leader, who then assigned other members a ‘logistics’ or ‘operations’ role. The tabletop map was an aerial view of Ocean Avenue in District 11 in San Francisco. Participants were first asked to identify the community’s vulnerable populations and how they would be impacted by a large magnitude earthquake. Facilitated by the leader, the group addressed three categories: central shelter, shelter in place, and mass feeding.

Once the tabletop exercise was complete, each individual group debriefed their maps. The leaders of the ICS presented their performance gaps and potential for improvement. The consensus was that everyone could benefit from being more prepared and having a system in place for times of stress. Daniel concluded the workshop with a challenge: how do we sustainably empower people in times of stress with a shared asset map?

The idea of an asset map is to give neighborhood leaders the tools they need before a disaster strikes. The map is going to document city resources and later will be used by neighborhood leaders to memorialize and digitize their neighborhood artifacts. The Brigade is continuing the work with a Resilience Map working group that meets every Wednesday at their Hack Night.

Even though concrete solutions were not discovered on National Day of Civic Hacking, the event concluded on a hopeful note of preparedness. Code for San Francisco followed true to Code for America’s slogan: No one is coming — it’s up to us.

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