Contribute > apps > Cross-platform Group Messaging and Location Beaconing for Disaster Relief


This application is a resource for citizens, medical teams and governments before, during and after disasters. allows mobile users to send an emergency GPS beacon to a real-time map. Crises responders can view all of the help requests on the webpage, along with hospitals and fire stations, real-time 911 calls related to natural disasters.

Ground teams can easily use on their mobile phones to send notices of supplies and terrain reports in real time. Remote helpers can easily see the whole picture on the website's real-time map, handle help and information requests, and send messages to the network. supports subscription to group messages via SMS, AIM, Jabber and Twitter. No application installation is required. Location beacons can be sent simply by going to on a mobile phone.

Targeted demographic (who is the app intended for?): 
This application is a resource for citizens, medical teams and governments before, during and after disasters. On the citizen level, the app is intended for anyone with a mobile phone who is caught in a crisis situation. On the medical and disaster relief level, it is intended for speedy collaboration and communication between local crises teams in the group and remote help units.
Who and what will be impacted by the app, and how?: 
Both those in emergencies and those organizing crises responders during emergencies will be impacted. Because the application runs over mobile web and SMS the system is capable of being used by virtually anyone with a mobile device. Those with mobile browsers will be able to more easily send their location to the map, allowing them to be seen and rescued more easily. The short website name is easily remembered and typed in during emergencies. The simplicity of the system means that a greater number of people can be impacted.
What is the specific need that is addressed by the app?: 
This map and mobile geolocation beacon can be used by any party in need of help. The map can be used to see the messages and help rescue those in need. The specific need is location and communication for rescue operations in emergencies.
Anticipated usage of the app (by whom, under what circumstances, etc)?: 
This application would be especially useful during an earthquake (like the one Portland is due to have), as the map and communication system can be accessed by anyone, both in-state and out of state. The application is also extendable. Instances of the application can easily be deployed for different needs. Quake victims can send emergency beacons with their location and status, (i.e. "trapped under a block of concrete") and be seen by rescue teams. The example in the Idea "Disaster Relief Community Information" cites a use case that could be very easily sent through this system. For example, a user could send a text to the network: "Potable water available at Woodlawn park". "Bring first aid supplies to medical tent at 33 and Killingsworth. "Need any community members who can construct emergency compost toilets and hand washing stations at Alberta Park". Volunteers on the ground near the area would be able to receive and respond to the message and provide help.
How is information presented, that's not presented elsewhere; how is it unique?: 
In addition to showing the locations of those in need, the map uses CivicApp data to display live-updating 911 Dispatch Incidents KML data filtered by hazardous conditions such as downed powerlines, chemical fires, traffic accidents, residential and commercial fire alarms. The 911 Dispatch XML feed was built into an API, allowing the map to returns calls as they are reported in near real-time.
What are a few of the primary strengths of the design?: 
The app was built specifically for rapid, cross-platform communication during crises situations. The design is meant for rapid communication and understanding of data. Signup by SMS requires a simple text, and the real-time map handles large amounts of data in a clear and useful fashion. The mobile website has a clear user interface that is simple to interact with.
GNU General Public License (GPL)
caseorganic :: October 11, 2010 - 9:40pm

This app was a collaboration between Aaron Parecki and I. It was built during the 24hr Geeks Without Bounds 10/10/10 weekend competition.

alicec :: November 10, 2011 - 10:10am

I think something like this is an excellent idea. Disaster relief always encounters emergencies and other problems. Using something like an SMS blast app seems like it make a great difference during these sort of circumstances. I haven't tried this app out yet, but having cross-platform capabilities seems like it will reach many more potential helping hands.