To empower humans to create cutting-edge disaster solutions.
We are humanitarians, pure and simple. No matter how many lives we affect before, during and after disasters, it’s the survivors who are the real heroes of their communities. A survivor refuses to be a victim. Surviving means acting quickly and making life-saving choices. Often, survivors make great sacrifices. Some have immeasurable courage. And sometimes, they just get lucky. But no matter how someone lives through a disaster or crisis, we are inspired. Survivors motivate us.
With that motivation, we position ourselves as thought leaders who create disaster solutions that FIT. It is who we are and what we do. We are a non-profit organization designed specifically to practice and preach how to be a survivor. In doing so, we serve communities in crisis and rethink response. We also teach communities to think like us in case of a catastrophic event.
We love mankind and understand we are all vulnerable. When disasters strike, we think fast. We are all-in, FIT-minded collaborators who know that no two situations are the same. So, we listen to each community’s unique wants and needs and respond FITtingly. We are agile and efficient. We help communities help themselves to survive. This is what it means to be FIT-minded.
FIT has been responding to disasters since 2010. In its early days, FIT operated as a grassroots group working together for neighborhood disaster resilience. Now a non-profit, FIT volunteers from across the globe deploy to disasters and work on disaster risk reduction and resiliency efforts.
Past work in disasters includes hurricane Sandy in 2012, the 2013 Moore, OK tornadoes, the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, Philippines typhoon Haiyan in 2013, and the 2014 mudslide in Oso, WA. FIT has also worked with refugee children from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras in the USA as result of the unaccompanied migrant minor crisis. The team continues to deploy into disasters working with communities across the globe.
FIT’s projects include collaboration with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to redesign its Disaster Recovery Centers and development of the concept that later became FEMA’s Disaster Survivor Assistance Program. In FEMA’s National Response and Coordination Center in Washington D.C., FIT supported innovative response to disasters.
FIT worked with the Drupal Conference to create housing and ride-sharing apps for stranded survivors of the 2013 Moore, OK tornadoes. After Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines in November, 2013, FIT worked with a team and partners to set up a heat map demonstrating internet connectivity.
FIT’s disaster response engagements included working the 530 mudslide in Oso, WA with collaborators to develop computer-generated 3D interactive reconstructive models and 3D prints of the mudslide topography. These outputs increased situational awareness of impassable terrain and helped keep first responders safe. In the 530 mudslide and following the Pilger, Nebraska twin tornadoes, FIT worked with Splunk4Good to develop and pilot the Donations Tracking Dashboard app for county officials and volunteer coordinators aiding the response. In support of the US and Mexico border crisis response, FIT worked with designers, artists, and thespians to develop a recreational activities curriculum designed to build community within refugee and disaster-displaced populations.
FIT’s work on disaster resilience and preparedness building included the Washington Community Innovation Summit with the Washington Governor’s Office, Future-casting earthquakes with Intel, Autodesk, the California Lieutenant Governors Office, and the California Office of Emergency Services. FIT supported and helped facilitate the third Canada-U.S. Enhanced Resiliency Experiment (CAUSE III) aimed at demonstrating how new technologies can enable Canadian and U.S. emergency responders to exchange situational awareness information as an incident unfolds. FIT also ran two disaster innovator Bootcamps to train its next generation of volunteers for disaster activation and to prototype solutions to anticipated problems brought on by crises.
FIT conducted four deployments. Working virtually in Pakistan through a partnership with the Aga Khan Development Network, FIT created the Story Troubadours for Disaster Resilience workshop model. Using storytelling as a low-tech solution to enable communities plagued by frequent disasters, individuals can learn from each other, build stronger community connections, and prepare for future disasters. FIT also returned to San Antonio, Texas where the team put together a robotics petting zoo for unaccompanied migrant youth in the US/Mexico Border Crisis and trained educators with new innovative methodology designed to increase out-of-the-box educational resources for changing circumstances. The training was designed for personnel working with displaced, refugee, and migrant populations. After a virtual deployment immediately following the Nepal earthquake, FIT deployed to support response operations. The virtual deployment focused on earthquake safety and youth empowerment curriculum training young women leaders; the on-the-ground portion of the deployment focused on supporting women leaders as they helped to fill the country-wide need for education support. Finally, FIT deployed to the Middle East to support the Syrian refugee crisis using tools focused in the public health, entrepreneurship, and power grid space. This work continued in 2016.
FIT’s 2015 disaster risk reduction initiatives include our Miami Do Tank, which used games and design thinking to explore climate change impacts on sea level rise and what hurricanes might be like in 2050 for Florida. FIT also ran a Disaster Innovation Do Tank: New York City Off The Grid during the Anti-Summit at the Tribeca Disaster Innovation Awards. Participants experienced a simulated electrical grid failure caused by solar flare and reacted by creating real-time solutions to help the city react. Other workshop highlights included a disaster simulation in the town of High River, Alberta, Canada; a drought design Jam with California Lieutenant Governor; creating and hosting the inaugural SXSW Robotics Petting Zoo; and running a nuclear bomb awareness exhibit at San Francisco Fleet Week.
FIT expanded its work with innovation in disasters in Canada, US, Mexico and several other countries; Partnering with Defence Research and Development Canada and Royal Roads University FIT programmed a series of preparedness workshops for youth in British Columbia and Alberta, Canada. Separately, the team also partnered for preparedness initiatives with the community in Montreal, Quebec during StartUp Festival and held the largest Do Tank preparedness workshop-to-date with over a thousand emergency managers at the World Conference on Disaster Management in Toronto, Ontario. The team flew drones, experimented with robotics and ran a Do Tank in Cape May, New Jersey partnering with the community, United Nations and Red Cross. During the Zika Outbreak in Florida, the team created public health gaming for the Miami-Dade Public School System to educate on the outbreak of the Zika virus and performed a second deployment to support the Syrian Refugee Crisis.
The later half of the year, FIT joined European Emergency Managers in Paris, France to discuss innovative technologies with UNESCO’s emergency management consortium and run events for cybersecurity professionals in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The team also joined the High River, Alberta community to continue recovery and resiliency work post 2013 floods. FIT finished the year with public health practitioners in the United States preparing for future disasters in Dallas, Texas and Bakersfield, California.
FIT kicked off the year speaking at the American Meteorological Society in Seattle, Washington on science, innovation, and disaster response. The team also keynoted in San Jose, California; Madrid, Spain; Ottawa, Ontario; and Orlando, Florida on various topics from data in disasters to designing solutions in emergency response. At the King County Emergency Operations Center, FIT ran a disaster preparedness bootcamp and followed up with speaking engagements in Washington State and Park City, Utah. By Spring, FIT reunited with the Town of High River, Alberta to build out technology and design solutions to optimize the use of spontaneous volunteers during response efforts. The team built out gaming resources with the Eastside Community Emergency Response Team to teach inclusive learning styles for responders and community members. Afterwards, the team traveled to the heartland running preparedness workshops in Kearney and Lincoln, Nebraska.
The team also deployed innovators to Rockport, Texas during Hurricane Harvey in 2017 to design a system for efficient donations management serving over a thousand survivors daily along with kick starting a mobile medical unit and a smart sheltering system. From the wildfires in north and south California, FIT worked with BBVA and community partners to redesign community sheltering in San Francisco, California before deploying to Santa Barbara, California to innovate during the holidays and serve organic soup to survivors and responders.
FIT traveled to Waterloo and Kitchener – Ontario for a disaster storytelling series and preparedness do tank. The team also attended the International Association of Emergency Management – Canada’s keynote in Calgary, Alberta. Speaking on innovation, technology and design in emergency management, the Team spoke in Provo, Utah for the Utah Valley University’s business school, Washington D.C. for the Chamber of Commerce, Wisconsin Dells for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the Washington State Emergency Management Agency Conference. We had two reunions in Kearney, Nebraska with the regional Tri-City Medical Response System and National Capital Region of Emergency Management in Washington D.C. (hosted by the Homeland Security Emergency Management Agency.)
A road trip to work on community sheltering in Texas, Alabama, and Florida was followed by the one year Rockport, Texas hurricane community reunion and a discussion with British Columbia responders on the future of wildfires. The year ended with a deployment to Paradise, California for the wildfires working with makers, designers and creative community members to solve challenges with responders and survivors for safe and resourced re-entry into the town.
During the California super bloom, FIT designed solutions for disasters with Claremont College students, faculty and staff building innovative and novel solutions to empower survivors and responders in preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation. FIT ran a series of Do Tanks on wildfires in Redmond, Washington; earthquakes in Vancouver, British Columbia; tornadoes in Saint Paul, Minnesota; and severe weather in Cambridge, Ontario. The team also geared up to support the Cascadia Rising Solutions exercise with Redmond’s Emergency Management Division and co-facilitate a skills building workshop on improvisation in disasters with Heroic Improv in Chicago, Illinois for the nation’s Airport Emergency Managers.
FIT’s 2019 deployments included the floods that struck the heartland, where the team focused on standing up a Relief Center to solve challenges for multi-state flooding after team was requested from the state of Nebraska’s university system. The team is excited about the opportunity to teach on innovation, technology and design in disasters at the Emergency Management Institute in Emmitsburg, Maryland and in Portland, Oregon at the Emergency Media Public Affairs Conference. Traveling to Louisville, Kentucky, FIT is collaborating on a Disaster Simulation Lab with the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, North American Power Utilities and Construction to ideate on how these industries can continue to innovate in real-time to support response in the next disaster and save lives. The team will round off the year working with a series of Do Tanks for NR CAER’s multi-jurisdictional association of private-public partners in Alberta, Canada.
FIT will continue to grow its emergency infrastructure expansion work by scaling up work with industries, including healthcare, environmental, education, research and development for corporations, power grid systems, construction and more.
Desi and the team continue to collaborate with communities’ worldwide empowering humans to create cutting-edge disaster solutions.