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#InnovateEarthquakes! FIT’s Day of Technology Innovation for Disaster Management

September 5, 2014 - Blog -

Disasters strike unexpectedly. Technologies rapidly change and improve, or disappear when they become obsolete. How then does one prepare for disasters by using the most recent technologies and tools? During a disaster preparedness event held at the downtown SF Autodesk Gallery, Autodesk, the Field Innovation Team (FIT), and other Bay Area innovators, inventors, and thinkers sought to reconcile this issue using earthquakes as a case study. The objectives: determine how FIT can deploy Autodesk technologies or innovations to assist in disaster response and recovery, share exciting disaster preparedness innovation work, and ideate disaster response more broadly with the diverse attendees.

Participants included representatives from the California Lt. Governor’s Office, the State of California’s Office of Emergency Services, City of San Francisco Department of Emergency Management, the Innovation Genome Project, Intel, EchoUser, and Berkeley University. The day’s sessions crossed a large spectrum. The morning began with small group ideation sessions with Autodesk subject matter experts. The afternoon was filled with engaging presentations from SF’s disaster planning and response leaders, and concluded with a report out from FIT’s latest global disaster innovation challenge.

Autodesk + FIT

In the morning during the ideation session between FIT and Autodesk, FIT described what our work in the disaster space looks like and Autodesk shared potential technology that could aid response. Reality computing tools could map pre- and post- disaster settings for more targeted and informed response. Bill O’Connor’s Innovation Genome Project, which maps out a route for systematically following the process of achieving novel and unconventional ideas, could prove to have extremely relevant disaster response applications. Participants dreamt up novel applications for drones, 3D print technology, and other instruments that could fill empty niches in the disaster space.

What are the most pressing needs in disaster today?

What about disasters in the future? Focusing again on earthquakes, the afternoon sessions sought to answer these questions. Kicked off by Brian David Johnson’s futurecasting session, the audience was pushed to imagine a disaster stricken world 10, 15, and 20 years into the future. They then prepared for it. Working together, they figured out how to minimize damages to harmful and unpredictable future disasters. When prompted to envision how would they prepare for disasters if given years to do it, participants allowed their creativity to flow. They highlighted ideas from good (e.g. preparedness at home, work, and school) to wild (e.g. developing technology that prevents disasters like earthquakes from happening in the first place). Learn of Brian David Johnson’s futurecasting here.

California Report Card

After the trip to the future of disasters with Brian David, the afternoon was packed with an introduction into past FIT deployments and plans for the future, a tour through the California Report Card, a presentation on designing for disasters from the City of San Francisco Department of Emergency Management, a report out from participants in FIT’s latest disaster Innovation Challenge, and more. During the California Report Card session, Ken Goldberg of Berkeley University, alongside his students, shared results of their project aimed at crowd sourcing for public opinion on the State’s performance. Interestingly but not surprisingly, participants expressed concern about current disaster preparedness levels.

Following the report card, Jodi Traversaro of Governor’s Office of Emergency Management Services talked about what is being done to act on the Report Card’s findings. We then saw the outcomes of the FIT-directed 24 hour global disaster innovation challenge. The challenge included participants from New Zealand, Australia, Iraq, South Africa, Canada, and Russia, with participants sharing their earthquake response plans with the whole event via Skype. The ultimate goal for this ongoing global partnership is to assist, empower, and provide solutions to challenges in real-time disasters. The purpose of envisioning solutions before disaster strikes is to have a crisis solution tool kit full of fully or partially vetted ideas that can be used to empower first responders and disaster survivors. The 24 hour global challenge also presented an opportunity for event participants to connect to FIT’s global nework of disaster responders.

Other speakers, presentations, and discussions addressed further facets of disaster response. All discussion brimmed with questioning, ideas, and amazing thought. It was action packed, and the happy hour at the end of the day was welcomed as a chance to plan next steps to build on the incredible connections that were made.

Stay tuned for more from FIT and its partners in attendance at #InnovateEarthquakes Day. We’re excited about the plans that were set in motion. FIT continues to rapidly develop projects, programming, and relationships to keep us agile and prepared for our next disaster deployment.