Disaster mitigation by crowdsourcing hazard documentation

Yulong Yang, Michael Sherman, Janne Lindqvist

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

3 Scopus citations


Natural disasters can cripple communities in many ways, including cutting off access to power and water. Documenting and resolving hazards, such as, broken utility poles prior to such disasters can mitigate the damage caused by them. However, this task involves time and resource-intensive manual labor: considerable amount of well-trained municipal staff are needed. Our work showed that, with a crowdsourcing approach, even a very simple mobile app could make large-scale volunteer effort practical. Our application instructed the user step by step through the needed tasks to document an identified hazard. Each documented hazard was then automatically uploaded to a server. Such approach allowed nearly real-time coordination, and prevented duplicated effort. We cooperated with a local township, helping them to use our system to document hazards in their township. The volunteers recorded 349 distinct hazards in eight days. In total, eight volunteers participated. After a short period of training, all volunteers were able to complete the documentation tasks without issues, even though most of them were not familiar with the system before. With the collected data, the township committee was able to bring in utility companies to review and fix all of potential hazards before the hurricane season in 2014. This operation created a large positive impact for the township.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 4th IEEE Global Humanitarian Technology Conference, GHTC 2014
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9781479971930
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014
Event4th IEEE Global Humanitarian Technology Conference, GHTC 2014 - San Jose, United States
Duration: Oct 10 2014Oct 13 2014

Publication series

NameProceedings of the 4th IEEE Global Humanitarian Technology Conference, GHTC 2014


Other4th IEEE Global Humanitarian Technology Conference, GHTC 2014
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Jose

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Management of Technology and Innovation
  • General Engineering


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