Alex Griffin, Gwinnett County (GA) firefighter and CEO of a growing Atlanta-area software development company (LFG Command Systems), won second place in the software design competition at the Random Hacks of Kindness. The 24-hour event was held from 12 p.m. Friday, June 3 to 12 p.m. Saturday, June 4, 2011 at Georgia Tech.
Focused on mobile development, Random Hacks of Kindness (RHOK) is an initiative that brings together experts in development and volunteers with a broad set of skills in software development and design. The objective of the event is for the participants to identify key challenges to disaster relief and develop solutions to these critical issues through technology.
LFG Command Systems was tasked to pick a problem from the RHOK challenge list or come up with one of their own. The problem they addressed was to create a software system that will send quick text alerts with life-saving instructions before and during a disaster. They named the application Disaster Alert.
While many cities have existing alarm systems designed to alert people of approaching tornadoes and other disasters, they are often very inefficient. Every second matters in making sure people are notified of an emergency situation in enough time to respond and are provided proper instructions to help them take cover.
Disaster Alert will enable a person living in an area that is not experiencing a disaster (but who has relatives or friends who are) to send an alert to their cell phones. If the receiver of the alert is within the telecom network coverage area, the system will activate his or her phone with an attention-getting notification. When the receiver views it, a map of the disaster location they are in will also be displayed.
This information will be reflected on a Web site so that first responders will know the receiver’s last known location if they must conduct a search to find the person. Lastly, after a tornado, hurricane, earthquake or other disaster has ended, people can inform relatives, friends and first responders of their condition by selecting a feature within the software that’s labeled ‘I’m OK’.
Areas that the judges (which were a panel of peers) evaluated the software by were in functionality and concept.
“We are trying to add another layer of protection to the people. We feel like this tool will help them take safety in their own hands. I saw the devastation of the storms in Georgia, Missouri, and other parts of the country this year and thought there must be more we can do,” stated Griffin.