Post by: Kim Stephens
The Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) recently sponsored a Facebook app contest with the goal of getting people to designate friends or family to be their lifeline after a disaster. The concept was born out the notion that people already turn to their social networks in a crisis for support, so why not create a way for folks to think about this before an event. The winning application is called bReddi and it is quite innovative: the developers not only integrate the concept of lifelines into the product, but they also promote personal preparedness activities, coupled with information about specific geographic risks and hazards.
There are 3 things I think they executed really well.
1. Buttons and Badges
Most government emergency management websites contain information about how to prepare for a disaster presented as a list of items the citizen should accomplish. These lists are often static without anyway for the person to either track their progress, enter the information, or be rewarded once completed. This app, however, not only provides the all-important to-do list, but allows the user to type their content directly into the app and see their progress via a status bar of percent complete. For anyone who attended grade school, seeing a 0% on what looks like a report card strikes up not only a little fear, but a desire to make it go away. Once completed, users are rewarded with a badge to be proudly displayed on their Facebook page. The badge serves two purposes, it alerts the user’s Facebook friends to the app and provides another incentive to finish.
Often, information about hazards is divorced from information about preparedness. The bReddi app, however, connects the user to the hazards they could experience based on their location–which is obtained from the Facebook profile. The home “dashboard” not only lists these potential hazards, but the content is linked to a live FEMA newsfeed. (This is actually a little bit of a criticism for me–I think it would be a bit better if the content came from more local sources, however, I understand that there were probably development constraints. Maybe V2 will provide this feature.) The “history” tab also provides a visualization of regional historical-disaster data for 8 different hazards: flood, tornado, fire, earthquake, hurricane, pandemic, terrorism, and volcanoes.
Historical and real-time disaster data is displayed on the home tab as well, which not only gives the user a personal “threat summary” but also illustrates the threat summary for favorite friends and the national average. Seeing a national average is not necessarily useful information, since a threat of fire in California does not threaten me here in Maryland, however, seeing the threat scale for friends might provoke me to invite others to the app. For example, Bill Boyd, a fellow blogger, has a bit of yellow on his scale where mine was all green, prompting me to want to encourage him to prepare. (As a side note, Bill is a firefighter and already well prepared, I’m sure!) This illustrates how the developers considered the concept of shared responsibility: I see my friends are in danger, I can help them prepare by sharing this app…brilliant.
The entire app has a pleasing user interface, easy to understand graphics, and easily executable tasks. The content can also be taken offline by printing out a wallet-sized emergency info card.
One tiny criticism, I do wish they would explain to the user what is involved in being someone’s “lifeline.” What does that mean for the designee? What responsibilities does that entail? Although I think this information is explained on the companies’ website, it should be spelled out in the app itself more prominently.
I am now curious how local governments might take advantage of this app. Will you direct your citizens to it? Let me know.