Can 'Hackers' Use Computer Code to Help with Natural Disaster Response & Safety?

Sep 12, 2018

Credit Blackstone LaunchPad/ Syracuse University

Syracuse University is about to host a hackathon focused on helping people and communities leading up to, during and after natural disasters.  During the two day event which starts Friday, Hurrican Florence is expected to hit the Carolinas and Virginia. 


The Program Manager of the Blackstone Launch Pad at Syracuse University Braden Croy says participants of “Call for Code” don’t have to be computer “coders” to join a team.

 “Anyone who has maybe that more business mindset so they’re a marketer or they are a finance individual. Anyone with a diverse skill set is welcome.”

'Call For Code' Hackathon—Sept 14 & 15—at Syr Univ Bird Library

He says mobile, desktop, and app developers could also work alongside those in marketing to create happier, healthier communities.  As the current focus in the news this week has been evacuations and warnings for Hurricane Florence, Croy says hackathon participants could figure out logistics on evacuation efforts for any region of the country.

 “Hospital, nursing homes. How do we evacuate individuals? How do we help people in their own home lives better prepare and plan for natural disasters? So you know the technology you can come up with at a hackathon is infinite.”

As our world has become more connected digitally with mobile devices, we rely on them more and more.  That’s a problem because Croy says about 52 percent of homes in the U.S. don’t have landlines and storms can also disrupt mobile communications.

Braden Croy visits the WAER studios.
Credit John Smith/WAER News

“These are perfect opportunities for participants in Call For Code to think about communications when you have no electricity, when your cell tower, your infrastructure is taken down. What does that look like? And how do we build technologies that are safe, secure, and reliable to restore communications between family members, between first responders?”

“Call for Code” happens at SU’s Bird Library this Friday at 3:30 and continues through Saturday.  To sign up click here.

Winners can go on to national compeition and work with the American Red Cross and IBM's Corporate Service Corps to have their solutions actually deployed next year.  There's also a chance to win money: First-place winner in the global competition will receive $200,000; second place is $50,000; third place is $10,000.