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Disaster Dashboard Nears Public Launch, Gets Upgrade

After a brief pilot with San Francisco, Appallicious' open data dashboard nears its official launch.

Municipal open data has a new way to map itself.

Open data visualization startup Appallicious has announced plans to use its technology to map all varieties of open and internal data for cities.

The expanded features are part of a major refresh to the San Francisco company’s Disaster Assessment and Assistance Dashboard (DAAD), that maps local emergency and recovery resources in real time. Through the dashboard, endorsed by FEMA, citizens can request assistance, first responders can update first aid locations, and local businesses can advertise recovery services — a significant boon to recuperating economies. Other features entail alerts, real-time incident reports, searchable and filtered resource management, and the ability to geo locate emergency tweets under specific hashtag categories.

For San Francisco, the first city to test the app, the platform thus far has been an integral tool in the city's resiliency plans for all kinds of disasters, large or small, said Supervisor Mark Farrell. Pending budget approval, DAAD has been slated for official purchase in June.
“The Disaster Assessment and Assistance Dashboard helps build communication and collaboration among all of the stakeholders involved in planning and recovery on a citywide basis," Farrell said. "Such collaboration allows us to learn lessons, create standards and become a more efficient city through all phases of disaster — planning, response and recovery."

The upgrade, officially called Blackbird Visual, pairs DAAD’s mapping abilities with a new content management system and backend database for administrators. Departments and agencies can use the system to house data for office or public use as well.

Appallicious CEO and Founder Yo Yoshida said the improvements erase many of the restraints placed on the mapping cloud service that was previously limited to disaster information such as first aid stations, evacuation routes and business recovery resources. Foreseeable uses could relate to data on building inspections, construction, transit, code enforcement — essentially almost any kind of information.

“We’ve really created one of the first universal platforms for data,” Yoshida said. “With our new CMS and back-end database, DAAD can be applied to just about anything.”

During the pilot, the San Francisco Fire Department's (SFFD) Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT), an emergency training program for citizens, has worked with Appallicious to provide feedback and inspire crowdsourced engagement. San Francisco is the first city to test the app, and pending budget approval, has been slated for official purchase in June. Pending official launch in June, NERT Program Coordinator Lt. Erica Arteseros said the dashboard will act as a canvass for various initiatives.

"SF NERT is excited to implement the platform on a citywide scale for SFFD, NERT and the Neighborhood Watch Programs to help facilitate community empowerment, education, planning, response and recovery." Arteseros said. "This powerful platform provides a way for us to engage citizens in new ways and make the NERT and Neighborhood Watch programs more interactive and effective."

Strategically, the additions will allow agencies who prefer or have requirements to separate data from the public or other departments to do just that. For emergency and medical workers, one example is in the case of graphic photos. Yoshida said if the dashboard’s mappable photo feature was used to survey victims during natural disasters, first responders would require a mechanism to filter content for privacy and public sensitivity. Similarly, for easy comprehension and context, Yoshida said certain data needed to be grouped together, by services or by agency.

“A lot of departments still have a lot of locked down information that they can’t release to public at any given moment," he said, "but they can still use it efficiently within their own internal investigations."

Appallicious is not alone in offering a product that houses and maps city data within a single service. Fellow competitors in the civic tech arena have built narrowly tailored apps in specific niches. Civic Insight, another San Francisco cloud service, maps and tracks the status of building and construction projects with its own dashboard. Likewise, OpenCounter, a Santa Cruz, Calif., company, has fashioned a service called ZoningCheck that maps planning code requirements for business license applications.

Despite market dynamics, Yoshida said his service can provide a cost effective solution that consolidates many services into one. In addition to San Francisco, he's also in discussions with other Bay Area cities and agencies that have considered adopting the data to populate a regional dashboard. The joint collaboration would be especially useful when considering California’s penchant for earthquakes.

Following San Francisco’s public-facing launch, Yoshida said a mobile version and formats for multiple languages are in the works. Once released to cities, a freemium version of the app will be available for basic use.

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