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Appallicious Preps for FEMA Disaster Dashboard Launch

The Disaster Assessment and Assistance Dashboard offers states and localities a comprehensive tool for response and recovery efforts.

Appallicious, a California-based company known for its government open data app offerings, has revealed plans to create an online dashboard to aid recovering communities and local businesses during and after disasters.

The company announced the dashboard -- a collaboration with the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA's) open data program -- this week alongside the hire of Ashley De Smeth, its new director of development and government affairs. De Smeth, formerly the interagency liaison for the White House Office of Legislative Affairs, has been tasked with coordinating with FEMA on the dashboard’s launch while also marketing it to states and localities. 

Appallicious CEO Yo Yoshida said Wednesday that the company will likely pilot the dashboard with the city of San Francisco for 90 days before formerly offering it to communities.

"My goal with this is to house it in every city,” Yoshida said. “And I think every city in the world should have something like this, and if not our product, then something like it.”

Officially called the Disaster Assessment and Assistance Dashboard, or DAAD, the dashboard’s primary features will support residents and local businesses. For residents affected by a disaster, this will mean a suite of functions that include real-time mapping of disaster relief locations, requests for assistance, status updates on roadways, listings of aid-giving support facilities such as hospitals and first response centers, hazardous material locations and other latest developments around incidents. The mapping functions, Yoshida said, also will allow crowdsourcing of imagery -- residents can upload photos of the disaster from their perspective.

“We can plug the photos into the map so people can see the state of their own communities, not just if they have news, but being able to really kind of visually identify what's going on with their community,” he said.

Beyond initial impacts of a major disaster, the dashboard will include data for community rebuilding and recovery work, how to take advantage of federal aid, business reopenings, and other disaster assessment information housed by FEMA and other agencies. Yoshida said DAAD will draw information from numerous hubs comprised of FEMA’s own open data APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), city and regional information and on-the-ground citizen feedback.

As the FEMA and Appallicious collaboration firms up in the coming months, more features and additional details will be cemented; however, Yoshida said a major distinction of the dashboard will be its ability to publicize potential contract opportunities for local businesses that can contribute to rebuilding efforts. In most cases, Yoshida said recovery work is outsourced to large companies instead of local residents. The reasoning for the reversal is to place funding where it will benefit communities long term as it’s used locally to supplement lost cash flows and recover jobs.

“This is creating a powerful tool that will change and help revolutionize the way people rebuild their communities in sustainable ways and empower citizens in a way that's never been done before,” he said.

Elaborating on the issue, De Smeth highlighted Hurricane Katrina’s affected communities as an example of what happens to local business following a destructive incident.

“If you look at Hurricane Katrina and what happened to the ninth ward, a very, very small percentage of those who lived in the ninth ward prior to Hurricane Katrina are there now,” De Smeth said. “Sometimes FEMA takes months to get things moving, and what really happens in post disaster areas is that small businesses pretty much get shoved out. They take the insurance money and settle up, and start over somewhere else because it takes so long to recover on the same ground.”

Reaching out to jurisdictions at all levels, De Smeth said interest has already been expressed by various municipalities inside and outside of California. She noted that weather is likely to direct her outreach efforts, which will target cities, counties and states based on need and disaster patterns. She identified jurisdictions within the “Hurricane Belt” as likely first participants.  

“This really is a first-time deal, really cutting edge and innovative," De Smeth said. "That’s what I’m so excited about this project."

Jason Shueh is a former staff writer for Government Technology magazine.