Design Ideas For Disaster Relief

Natural disasters, and the interrelated social aftermath they cause, present an ever-expanding social plight. Through my research, the complexity of this issue has become increasingly clear. As a designer, I plan to solve for these solutions through methodical testing anditerations. The two avenues through which I will begin seeking these solutions are by examining, first, the effectiveness of the intake process of evacuation centers and, secondly, the effectiveness of volunteer readiness.

All survivors of natural disasters go through an intake process in order to receive assistance and aid. The purpose of the intake process is to collect information for agencies to report on. The Red Cross is the main point of contact and oversees the intake process for most natural disasters. While researching at the Onion Creek Evacuation Center, I was able to get a strong understanding of the intake process. I found that success of this process can be compromised by a variety of variables most commonly logistics, language barriers, lack of volunteers, loss of paperwork, and basic disorganization. In an effort to help mitigate the problem of access and outreach, mobile registration services is one design idea that would benefit both survivors and volunteers. This alternative to the intake process would allow for survivors to preregister and schedule meetings with case managers more efficiently. Mobile registration can provide information on needs before volunteers arrive and allow responders to estimate the numbers for supplies more accurately and more quickly. This format for registration, and the increased access it would provide, would be able to promote the idea of a safety ground and next steps for recovery. Mobile registration also provides a platform to educate survivors on the next steps available to them for recovery. See below for a story board that outlines a mobile app that can help families recover faster.


My second design idea involves finding new and different ways to engage volunteers in order to alleviate the havoc of natural disasters. A city’s best way to help its citizens alleviate the devastation of natural disasters is to provide preparation and information ahead of time. My research indicates that it is difficult for most community members to find out how to volunteer and help their community during these times of crises. One way to resolve this problem is to establish a website that provides information about disaster relief and matches users with volunteer opportunities. For individuals who find volunteering unchanging and predictable, the website would engage and challenge them with opportunities to expand on their preexisting skills and experience. Additionally, this platform is a great way to get high school students more involved in volunteer opportunities and ultimately bolster their college applications. Another benefit of having centralized volunteers via a website is that it allows nonprofits outreach opportunities and a way to greater inform their communities. Ultimately, immediate access to a volunteer base would greatly change the nature and efficiency of recovery when disaster strikes.  See below for a storyboard of how a service like this can work and create a community of change.

To see how I got to these as design ideas view