Crowdsourcing Better Disaster Preparation Solutions

Published Sep-14-15

A reforestation project and a literacy program are among the winning solutions of a crowdsourced contest to find smart disaster preparation strategies.

Solution Search, United States

The Story:

Crowdsourcing Better Disaster Preparation Solutions In 2005, Hurricane Katrina slammed into the United States with devastating effects. Nearly 2,000 people were killed and more than 300,000 homes were destroyed. As well as being one of the deadliest hurricanes to hit the US it was also one of the costliest, with estimates ranging from $120 billion to $150 billion dollars.

Fast forward the clock to 2015 and there are widespread concerns in the United States that despite the events of the recent past, disaster preparation is not as effective as it should be: "....disaster preparation remains politically siloed and thus is often hampered and insufficient in practice,” said Brett Jenks, CEO of Rare, an international non-profit organization.

According to figures highlighted by Solution Search, more than 500 people have been killed in the US from weather-related disasters since 2012. Between 1980 and 2012, weather-related disasters have cost the country $1 trillion.

Crowdsource Contest

In an effort to improve disaster preparation and to bring some innovation to the sector, Solution Search launched 'Reducing our Risk: Innovation for Disaster Preparation', a contest to crowdsource solutions to weather disasters - not just storms, but other weather events such as droughts and floods.

During the contest’s three-month submission period the solutions came pouring in. These were whittled down to a field of ten by a panel of judges.

A total of 26,000 public votes helped to determine the winners and first prize and a check for $25,000 went to the City of Ottawa, Illinois for its floodplain project. This was a buyout program that allowed people to move out of flood-prone areas so that the natural river floodplain could flow freely.

Among the other winners were:

The Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project in the city of Flagstaff, Arizona. It picked up the People's Choice Award and a grant for $25,000. This forest restoration project aims to reduce the risk from wildfires and flooding. One of the problems it tries to solve is the danger posed by post-fire floods. Charred, barren ground is unable to absorb the rainwater and the subsequent flooding can cause more damage than the actual fire.

The University of New Orleans-CHART was a runner-up in the People's Choice category for a literacy program that teaches people how to read maps and signs, allowing them to evacuate in the event of storms.

Spreading the Word

The crowdsourced contest was of immense value. Not only was it able to help winning solutions with some financial support, but it also shed a valuable spotlight on many innovative ideas. Bringing them to the public’s attention can help to serve as an inspiration for other parts of the USA that are looking for their own innovation disaster preparation solutions.

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