News outbreak during this year's BC forest fire detailing housing difficulties.
Just before the hackathon began, a series of wildfires greatly impacted the northern towns and forests of my province. My news sources and social media platforms were flooded with content documenting residents evacuating and firefighters tirelessly working.
In 2017, Northern British Columbia had nearly 40,000 people displaced and forced to leave their homes by raging forest fires. In past years, Fort Mcmurray had 80,000 residents displaced along with 2400 buildings destroyed.
There aren't many events more traumatic in one’s life than losing a home, something that happens to scores of Canadians on a yearly basis. We saw a number of good hearted individuals wishing to offer up their homes to those affected, giving them mental relief and a safe environment from the trauma, however the offer to the victims rarely seems to come through, few know how to properly connect with those that need help the most.
Family comforts one another after being overcome with emotion as they view the remains of their home that was destroyed by wildfire on the Ashcroft First Nation, near Ashcroft, B.C.
"Isn't it a tragedy? They say that there are about [40,000] people displaced right now, and they are ending up in gymnasiums and the high schools and things. People are offering homes to come to ... it just seems such a shame. I don't know the answer to it and I don't know why people are not giving the word."
With the ongoing number of residents willing to offer up housing, we saw the gap in evacuees receiving these offers. Most evacuees are instructed to find and arrive at evacuation centers set up around the province. There, families will go through a Red Cross check-in system. But many do not and end up sleeping in their cars with no documentation of their safety.
Our team saw this opportunity to design a method of alert, communication and services for evacuees. Our goal is to help evacuees reduce complexity in finding an alternative to fire evacuation centers, and attain emotional relief and support through contact with good samaritans.
We also aim to support the good samaritans in reducing time and effort it takes to accommodate fire evacuees in need.
We’ve created an SMS platform that pushes out a message to those living in an area affected by a wildfire. We’ve specifically chosen SMS as our medium as it is readily available to most people and users don't require a smartphone or mobile data to fill out a complicated form.
SMS doesn't jam up the phone lines and users don't have to wait to connect which is a common problem in these kinds of disasters. We aim to make the process of immediate evacuation as well as finding a home to stay, as simple as possible. A single SMS based platform for all our services such as accommodation, news updates and step by step directions.
Our experience is divided into two streams of users: wildfire evacuees and volunteer homeowners. Focussing mostly on the wildfire evacuees, we have identified three stages in the experience: Alert, Check-In, Pairing.
SMS User Flow
Here's me drafting out the user journey of the SMS process during the Hackathon.