As Hurricane Arthur reminded us last week, hurricane season is underway. To help address the challenges that severe weather brings to our communities, today we are announcing a White House Innovation for Disaster Response and Recovery Initiative Demo Day, which will take place on July 29 at the White House. This event will bring together technologists, entrepreneurs, and members of the disaster response community to showcase tools that will make a tangible impact in the lives of survivors of large-scale emergencies. The White House Innovation for Disaster Response and Recovery Initiative was first launched by the Administration in the wake of Hurricane Sandy to find the most effective ways technology can empower survivors, first responders, and local, state, tribal, territorial, and Federal government with critical information and resources.
This event is a follow-up to the preview the President received at his annual Hurricane Season Briefing. At the brief, the President viewed a demonstration of the “Lantern Live” mobile app, designed by Department of Energy Presidential Innovation Fellow Derek Frempong to enable survivors to report and access information on power outages, fallen power lines, and the availability of gas stations with fuel and powered pumps. Other presenters included representatives from the Commonwealth of Virginia and Orange County, Florida, who provided overviews of their mobile apps that assist residents before, during, and after emergencies. These apps help users develop their own emergency plans, receive emergency alerts, and access critical information, including evacuation routes, shelter locations, and ice and water distribution points.
The President recognizes what experience and research have repeatedly shown: citizen/survivors faced with emergencies seek information and take action to help themselves, their neighbors, and their communities to respond to and rebuild from a disaster. Passivity in the face of danger is almost non-existent. Historically, a large part, if not most of the initial sheltering, feeding, relief, rescue, and transport of victims to hospitals was carried out by survivors in and near the affected area. The Federal Government aims to enable, empower, and strengthen these survivor efforts in the wake of a disaster.
To identify opportunities for the government to utilize technology to support disaster relief efforts, we hosted an all-day “Data Jam/Think Tank” at the White House in August 2013, worked with leading tech startups to find innovative ways their platforms could be leveraged during a disaster, and hired Presidential Innovation Fellows to build crowdsourcing apps. Companies including TaskRabbit, GetAround, and The Weather Channel have made commitments to support survivors and first responders, and we are excited to showcase the tools they have developed at the Demo Day.
If you have a technology that could be highlighted at the event, or if you would like to attend as part of the disaster response community, we encourage you to get involved! Send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org with information about your work for consideration.
Brian Forde is Senior Advisor to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer
Heather King is Director for Preparedness Policy at the National Security Council
Meredith Lee is AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security