DisasterTech: "Decisions for Heroes"

One of the most interesting DisasterTech projects I’ve been following is “Decisions for Heroes” led by developer and Irish Coast Guard volunteer Robin Blandford.

Decisions is like Basecamp for volunteer Search & Rescue teams. The focus is on providing “just enough” process to compliment the real-world workflow of a rescue team, without unnecessary complexity. One of Robin’s design goals is that: decisions-for-heros.png

User requirements are nil. Nobody likes reading manuals – if we have to write one, we’ve gotten too complicated.

This is the winning approach for building systems that “serve those that serve others”, and is echoed by InSTEDD‘s design philosophy and the Sahana disaster management system.

Teams begin by entering their responses to incidents and training exercises. They then tag them with things like the weather conditions, the tools and skills required, and who from the team was deployed.

As a team’s incident database grows this information can be used to show heatmaps, and provide powerful insight on the locations, weather conditions, and times of year that various incidents occur. Over time this kind of data could be analyzed in aggregate across multiple teams and regions and create an incredibly powerful resource for Emergency Managers. This is very similar to what Wesabe does for consumers with financial transaction data today (disclosure: OATV investment).


Rescue team members enter training dates and levels. The system tracks certification expiration dates and prompts team members & leaders to plan classes and remain current. This is a huge issue for volunteers who have to manage professional-level training requirements with the demands of a regular career.

As more incidents are entered into the system, it compares the skills required for each of the rescues with the team training exercises. This allows teams to identify areas to focus, train, and develop new skills.

This is an innovative project with tremendous potential, and hopefully an early signal of coming changes in Emergency Management.
(Note: ”How to Serve those that Serve Others” will be the theme of my “High Order Bit” session at the Web2.0 Summit.  I’ll be sure to post video/slides/notes when they are available.)
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