This was originally posted as an Innovation Now! post. I have added to my portfolio so that I can expand my ideas and add additional technology as I learn about them.
The desperate message “HELP” is seen on the lawn of a home near Utuado, Puerto Rico, in early October. Andres Kudacki for TIME
How I Found My Family in Puerto Rico After Hurricane Maria
On September 20, 2017, a Category 4 hurricane struck Puerto Rico leaving the island in complete devastation. The storm took out critical infrastructure to the island crippling the island in its wake. It’s hard to image, but it’s been over a year and the island is still in devastation; people are living in homes with no power, no clean drinking water and substandard housing. Recently several containers of supplies were discovered with spoiled food or expired food; they have distributed the food that could be salvaged, but what waste and to an island already in need.
How could a digital innovation help after a hurricane or any major ecological disaster? Let’s live in what If… What if we took the idea from Decode Darfur and applied some of the principles to Puerto Rico after hurricane Maria? For example, the Decode Darfur project used satellite imagery to identify and map remote villages that had been attacked by the Sudanese government, what if there was an opportunity to apply the same principles to satellite imagery after a major disaster to allow a recovery team to assess the damage and determine who needed help and what help they may need? If house A needed basic clean up, we could send a basic volunteer team to help that house, house B had a collapsed roof we’d need skilled trade professionals and we could send those resources directly to that house, and what if house C was completely gone, we’d need a complete rebuild team to come to the families aid to rebuild what they’d just lost. What if you could asses the next best house to help? Or better disperse the volunteers? Or Geo tag houses to know where to drop supplies off at if arriving in mass quantities; versus people having to locate a supply van at a location they may not be able to get to safely. Topographical data and logistics would be critical after a major ecological event and being able to use this information to make more informed decisions from a 3-mile up view versus a street level view may give you a broader perspective to be able to asses need and damage to disperse aid effectively and efficiently.
If a known disaster is coming, we could position satellites to take before and after photos of the impacted areas. 24 hours before, hours after devastation, days and weeks after the recovery efforts have begun. The organization trying to raise donation, would us the app to spark more donations for the recovery efforts. “Look we’ve made great improvement to Puerto Rico, but we still have lots of houses and people that need your support”. You could also use the photos to keep the effort in the news to keep people interested in what is happening for the recovery efforts. For Puerto Rico, they are still reeling from the hurricane a year later and there is limited news coverage on how the tiny island is struggling. FEMA pretty much left weeks after the hurricane hit and the people starting bypassing the government to get donations distributed as they were hording the money given as well as the supplies (they let food rot in containers). The people of Puerto Rico relied on expat Puerto Ricans in other countries to help with relief efforts.
Google has created a Crisis Alert team dedicated to crisis and using technology and data to help during these major disasters. The the latest three applications using AI are Person Finder, allows you to share information to find missing persons, SOS Alerts, a tool for during and after an event, bringing data from Maps and other sources in Search, and Public Alerts, an online Emergency Broadcasting System. How could our technology tap into this new AI and the power of these Google applications? “In these cases, what the team can offer is mapping data – layers highlighting the path of a storm, evacuation routes within states or across state lines, shelter locations – as well as alerts. Partnerships with state and local governments make it possible to overlay information about road and bridge closures across state lines. Getting accurate information to people as soon as they need it is of paramount importance during an emergency.” If there is an API, the possibilities become infinite. — This technology would have been very helpful for Eliza Castro to locate her grandparents in Puerto Rico after hurricane Maria.
Value proposition: To assist with getting aid, supplies and personal to any area impacted by an ecological event effectively and efficiently with the use of topographical data and logistics allowing the technology to pinpoint areas of need accurately.
Branding: To assist with getting much needed supplies and food to people who need it most as soon as possible
Target market: Any organization looking for an innovation that could assist them after a devastating event; fire, hurricane, tsunami, flooding, etc.
Who might pay for this type of technology? An insurance company who assists homeowners may find value in purchasing this technology because they could use it to assess damage and repair and repayment options on a mass scale. An organization focused on recovery efforts may find value in purchasing this technology so that they can determine critical need and who to help efficiently. The government (FEMA) potentially could purchase the technology and know where to deploy resources and supplies in critical areas faster and more accurately. (Instead of letting supplies rot in containers.) The home improvement industry, like Home Depot or Lowe’s, could also use the technology to get building supplies with accuracy to contractors and volunteers.
Hurricane Maria Recovery: Puerto Rico rebuilding 1 year after Maria
Donations sent to Puerto Rico were found rotting in parking lot
One year after Hurricane Maria: The struggle for housing in Vieques continues