Crisis Management CSCW Project
A project in CSCW (computer- supported cooperative work) that attempts to design a technological solution that can facilitate communal crisis management in the event of wildfires in the state of California.
Project team: Annahi Paez, Eric Bang, Ell Park, Alma Flores Ortega, Emily Tan
Role: Researcher, UX Designer
In the case of a crisis event, it is critical that those affected by the crisis have access to timely and accurate information. The most common sources that people use to get relevant information in a crisis are from the news or event-specific online resources, such as a Facebook page specifically dedicated to posting regular updates on an ongoing crisis event, like a wildfire (Chauhan & Hughes, 2017). Information is also quickly spread via social media platforms. However, research on current CSCW and other crisis-related systems revealed that there is no easily-accessible, consolidated source of information that is solely dedicated to managing crisis events, and it is difficult to organize communal efforts during a crisis event.
The state of sunny California, recognized for its beautiful beaches, is also the #1 wildfire-prone state in the nation, which means that those who live there know the importance of staying updated on all fires that occur within their proximity. After asking some Californians what they find important during a wildfire that's happening in their area, we found that they value being able to get quick and accurate information from the news and the local community to stay aware of the event. Additionally, a few of those surveyed also expressed that they would appreciate further organized community collaboration in the case of a fire, such as communal solutions to help those without access to a personal vehicle to evacuate. Emergency preparedness is also an obvious important aspect to living in an area where such crises like wildfires are common, but we found that about half of those surveyed do not consider themselves adequately prepared for navigating a fire emergency. (See Methods & Findings section to view full survey results)
Given this information, our team found that designing a system that is dedicated to facilitating crisis management in the case of California wildfires could be one solution to some of the current problems we discovered in our research phase: mainly, it shall address the lack of a consolidated stream of timely information about a wildfire and the difficulty of organizing communal efforts to help those who need it in an emergency.
We determined that the application should have the following main features:
Users shall have the ability to report wildfires that are occurring in their area.
Users shall be able to view a map that displays the ongoing wildfires and evacuation shelters.
Users shall be able to request rides from or give rides to others in their vicinity. This feature is for those who are unable to use a personal vehicle to evacuate.
Users shall receive alerts on air quality, how much of the fire is contained, and its spread across a locale.
Users shall have quick access to information on local evacuation shelters and timely updates on the wildfire, which will be taken from the news and local fire departments.
Users shall be able to interact with their local community through direct posts to the app about a wildfire event.
After refining our system's features, we created a high-fidelity prototype of our system as a mobile application. Our main goals with the interface design was to create something minimalistic and easy to navigate, as we wanted our system to be accessible to as many people as possible, which meant that those without technological familiarity should also be able to use the essential features of the app. (View our prototype under the Interaction Design section)
Our team's design for our Wildfire app aims to include the CSCW idea of ensuring important information is accessible to users of the application at all times in the case of a wildfire. Communication during an emergency can be unorganized and chaotic since people are often moving in haste and anxieties run high. Routing the communications into the hub of the Wildfire app will allow users to get all pertinent information, official and self-reported, from the application, while allowing people a common vector to communicate and transfer information during uncertain times.
Methods & Findings
We conducted our research on the field of wildfire crisis management in two parts: first was a competitive analysis of similar applications to our solution, and the second a survey of a sample of California residents on their needs during a wildfire.
For our competitive analysis we decided to to research 5 similar disaster applications that were available on the Apple App store and/or Google Play store.
We judged our competitive analysis by each system's similar features to our system, any issues in the user experience that we observed, whether it facilitated user collaboration, and whether or not the information on the system that was specific to a certain locale was crowdsourced from that area's community.
The most notable takeaway from this analysis was that none of our competitors facilitated communal collaboration and interaction. Each of these applications merely presented information to the user about the weather and/or natural disasters on an interactive map. While this is a feature that is also included in our system design, we want the information to additionally come from the local community of users, rather than only through the API of a weather or disaster-monitoring site.
One of our methods for research was a survey. We conducted a survey to understand how to properly proceed with the design of our Wildfire application. Our participants were 6 UCI students since we are focusing on the California area. It was also easy to reach out to students and to see what their stances are on wildfires and how much they have been exposed to them and how they deal with wildfires. However, we did face limitations by choosing only UCI students since we were not able to gain input from other community members. Also, our sample size was small and it limited our information that could have been collected and used to design our application. Regardless, we were still able to use this method to gain some insight from fellow students.
Our first question was, “How do you find out about Wildfires around you?”. It was important to ask this question because it allowed us to see what platforms people often use to stay up to date on the Wildfires that occur. We found that most people find out about wildfires through the news and social media the most. In fact, social media is a very powerful tool for emergency management during crisis events (Jiang et al.). And seeing that social media was used the most among the survey participants, it was clear that choosing to design a Wildfire application was the right choice.
Another question we asked was if the participants had ever used applications to see information about nearby wildfires. All the participants said no and they did not have any feedback on using them. From this, we understood that applications for weather forecasting and emergencies are not heavily used while social media is. A main aspect of social media is the collaboration aspect, and this influenced our application design to ensure that there was a collaboration feature. We also asked about the help that people would like to receive if they were to be affected by a wildfire and the answers ranged from carpooling, information on how to evacuate, where the fire is, and where to find a safe place. Carpooling would be a great feature to add onto our application design. The carpool feature is one of the main features of our design now.
We also asked how participants currently communicate and/or collaborate with their community when a Wildfire occurs and many participants said they use text messaging and calling to check up on people. Seeing that text messaging is important to most, it was evident that incorporating a community feel to our app would be suitable. Meaning that including a comment section would be helpful for users to communicate with other community members. We also asked what people do when looking for a safe place during a wildfire, and a participant mentioned looking on Google maps while another participant said contacting relatives. The participants also mentioned that they would like real time resources and information. These responses allowed us to proceed with the interactive map idea our team had developed prior to receiving survey responses. And lastly, we asked about what other kinds of help people may need or want to see offered. The participants said that they would like to see donations take place and others said they would like to see neighbors looking out for each other. This reinforced the idea that collaboration and community opportunity are important factors in creating an application for wildfires.
From the survey findings we were able to see a need for an application that provides community involvement during Wildfires. When a wildfire occurs in a neighborhood community members are concerned about their families, their neighbors, and themselves. Having an application that facilitates reporting when users witness fires around the area can prove to aid those in need. Hence why community was a strong factor when designing our application for crisis management and the need for one of our main features, the Carpool feature, had to be implemented. Lastly, we chose to design an application that would assist many individuals with receiving help by simply using their smartphone and get quick information regarding a Wildfire. People like to use Google Maps, check nearby evacuation sites, and real time information about wildfires.
The report feature in our application allows users the ability to report fires occurring in their area. When a user makes a report they should be asked to provide the following information: location of the fire, its spread across an area, the type of fire (wildfire, trash fire, warehouse fire, etc.) and any additional information. Providing this basic type of information in a user report ensures that other users in the community have some knowledge about the fire.
The carpool feature in our application allows users the ability to request rides and give evacuation rides to other users that live in their vicinity. When first signing up, the user can choose to either be a volunteer driver or a rider, or opt for neither.
A driver is willing to pick up a local neighbor within the driver’s desired pickup radius. The pickup radius ensures that users are not putting themselves in harm's way by driving further than they feel comfortable with. In addition to this the driver is allowed to select the number of people they can offer a ride to when an evacuation occurs; which ensures we connect the right rider with them that will not exceed their car capacity limit. Furthermore we have allowed them to select between two different ways their rider can contact them once they are matched and vice versa because it lets them be in communication if the need arises.
A rider is someone who needs a ride during an evacuation due to many reasons. We wanted to ensure that driverless people are able to get out of an evacuation zone safely with the help of their neighbors because they are the closest to them during these events. Furthermore we prompt the riders to enter the number of people, within their household, that would need a ride. This ensures that all of the passengers in this household are able to be picked up when they are connected with their respected driver.
This feature gives users information on local evacuation and emergency shelters. When a wildfire happens, there are times residents need to leave their home due to evacuation and safety concerns. Once this happens if they do not have family in the area they may need to go to a shelter that accommodates them. By having this information displayed in the application, people will be able to search for shelters in a reduced amount of time.
The map view feature allows users to see where the current wildfires and fires are in their area. The map view could be considered our home page because the user will always have access to it when they enter our application. Additionally the map view allows users easy access to reports of fire in a current location because they are able to click on a fire tag on the map. Once they click on it they will view some general information regarding the fire. Furthermore they will be able to click on the comment button; which allows them to communicate with other users. Moreover the map view tags of the fires have a dot on that is color coded between green and light gray. The green indicates that the fire is active while light gray means that the fire is no longer active.
The alert feature allows users to view the reports made in a more organized manner arranged from most recent. When the alert button is clicked a bottom popup window opens on the users screen. The user can scroll through the notifications, click on the notifications of alerts and notice if the fire is still active or not. Once clicking on a notification they have the option to view it on the map or comment on a chat board regarding this particular alert. Finally when the user is done they can swipe downward on the popup window so it closes or they can click anywhere outside of the window to close it as well.
The community aspect of our application allows users to interact with their community through comments and posts. The comment section can be accessed either through the alert, when clicking a specific report they wanna see, or the map view tags when clicked on. The comment section allows users to communicate with each other. In addition to this when someone makes a report of a fire it creates a post on the map; which allows other users to view it. This is another aspect to communication with the community or others because it makes them aware of fires that are occurring.
The user profile feature contains simple information regarding the user. Some of the information they provide is not required like their name because we want to provide privacy for some users who do not feel comfortable sharing this information. We also do not display the location of the user to other users within the application due to privacy issues as well. The user also has the option to add a picture to their profile if they desire to. Finally if the user has selected to be a driver or rider we display that information under the profile photo to ensure they do not forget what they have signed up for.
We began designing the interface of our system by sketching mockup wireframes. We drew versions of the pages that we thought our system should include, and then spent time refining and consolidating all of our designs into one that could flow seamlessly from one page to the next.
The resulting finalized mockups are included below:
Login & Signup page
After the user opens the app for the first time after downloading, they will see the page on the left, where they can either login to an existing account or sign up for an account.
The Sign Up mockup page is on the right, and the user must enter their name, a username, email address, and their zip code.
The home page of this app is the map page. This map page shows active fires in the area, along with any other hazards that have been reported by the community of users. Tapping on any of the fire or alert icons will display a popup of more information about that occurrence.
Alert Popup & Comment Feed Page
After tapping on an alert icon on the map, a popup containing information about the fire or hazard will appear (left image). Tapping on "Comment" leads the user to a feed of comments on the event posted by other users (right image).
Report a Fire Page
The report page is where the user can report a fire or other hazard. On the right is the option to report a fire. Users have to specify the location of the fire, the type of fire, and any additional information that could be helpful for the local community who may be affected by the fire.
Upon first navigating to the carpool page, information about this feature and about volunteering as a carpool driver or signing up as one in need of a ride during an emergency evacuation will be presented (left image). Tapping each section will lead the user to the respective form for signing up.
Once a user has signed up as either a driver or a rider, this page will show the user's corresponding status, and during an evacuation alert, ask the user if they are still available to give a ride/still in need of a ride, depending on their status as rider or driver (right image).
Volunteer Driver &
Rider Sign-Up Pages
The sign-up page to be a volunteer driver for a neighbor in need of a ride during an evacuation order asks the user for the relevant information needed for driver-rider matching (left image).
The sign-up page to be someone in need of a ride during an evacuation asks for similar information, so that they may be matched to the driver who fits their needs (right image).
Once this information is submitted, the user's status as either a driver or a rider will be shown on their profile.
The profile page displays the user's profile information. It also shows the user's status as either a volunteer driver or evacuation driver, depending on who they signed up as (if they did at all).
Below is the final prototype for our project. If you would like to try it out yourself, click here for the interactive Figma prototype!