Winners of the ASPR Lifeline Facebook Challenge
Three Facebook applications designed to help people prepare for emergencies and get support from friends and family in an emergency – from personal medical emergencies or car accidents to natural or man-made disasters – are winners of a Facebook application challenge sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.
ASPR’s Facebook Lifeline Application Challenge called on software application developers to design new Facebook applications that could enhance individual and community resilience by establishing social connections in advance of an emergency. The challenge promoted the development of apps to refine and better support existing online social phenomenon when a disaster hits. Online communities can provide a venue for emotional support through a survivors’ network and help decompress traditional channels of communication which may become overwhelmed during emergencies.
ASPR leads HHS in preparing the nation to respond to and recover from adverse health effects of emergencies, supporting communities’ ability to withstand adversity, strengthening health and response systems, and enhancing national health security. To learn more about ASPR and preparedness, response and recovery from the health impacts of disasters, visit the HHS public health and medical emergency website, www.phe.gov.
Two recent Brown University graduates, Evan Donahue and Erik Stayton, partnered as Team ALP to win first place with their application, named Lifeline. The Las Vegas team JAMAJIC 360 with David Vinson, Erick Rodriguez, Gregg Orr, and Garth Winckler came in second with an app also named JAMAJIC 360. Third place was awarded to AreYouOk? developed by TrueTeamEffort, a team of 11 University of Illinois students led by Alex Kirlik.
Although these top three applications differ in how users interface with the app, all three allow users to designate three lifelines — Facebook friends the person can count on and who agree to check on them in an emergency, supply them with shelter, food, and other necessities, and provide the person’s social network with an update about their wellbeing. Facebook users could use the lifeline app to create disaster readiness plans and share the plans with their emergency contacts, and provide users with news.
In addition, the first place app allows Facebook friends to collaborate on tracking the user’s status in a disaster-affected area so these friends can easily find the user’s lifelines and contact them to report that the user is safe or if the user appears to be missing. This networked approach increases the efficiency of finding missing users. The app allows users to print cards with a snapshot of their preparedness plan to carry in their wallets.
Team ALP’s app also features a news feed and links to credible information sources which make the app useful for large-scale disasters and individual emergencies, such as car accidents and personal medical emergencies.
The lifeline app is anticipated to be launched in the coming months, prior to the start of hurricane season. The team also receives $10,000 and complimentary passes from Health 2.0 to attend the spring Health 2.0 conference in Boston. JAMAJIC 360 receives $5,000 for second place, and TrueTeamEffort receives $1,000 for third place.
“We’re really excited about the potential of the lifeline app to help people not only to reach out to friends and family for the kinds of assistance they may need in an emergency, but also to help improve their personal health and preparedness,” said Nicole Lurie, M.D., HHS assistant secretary for preparedness and response and a rear admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service. “Having people you can depend on for help is especially important during a disaster, so we want to encourage everyone to identify those people in advance. Since so many people use Facebook to connect with one another, it seemed like a natural way to help people to identify their lifelines.”
Dr. Lurie also noted another possible benefit to the Facebook lifeline apps. “People who have friends or relatives they can rely on for help are healthier and live longer than those who don’t, which means establishing these social connections can enhance individual and community resilience,” she said.
To learn more about application challenges sponsored by federal agencies, including challenges that support emergency preparedness, visit challenge.gov.