Civic Hackers Take on Irma Response

September 11, 2017

Civic hackers working to solve communication in a Hurricane   / Sketch City


Sketch City, a community of developers and programmers, are using their technical skills to create valuable resources for those in Irma's path as well as people around the country who want to help out. 


They created the website, which offers innovative disaster response tools like,



In addition to helping victims escape the storm, the site gives donors information on the specific needs of each shelter. This will help prospective donors give effectively and save volunteers time sorting through in-kind donations


By using APIs developed in the response to Hurricane Harvey, Sketch City and the members of the "Irma Response Network" Slack channel are providing innovative resources to the disaster response effort.


Logistics have been key to the largest evacuation in American history, but in a storm like Irma, communication is very difficult, so the group created multilingual chat bots to help residents find the nearest shelter by text. And they are already working on a "Muck Map" to help the cleanup effort as the storm begins to clear.


Angela Shah sees this as just the latest in the rising trend of "civic tech."  In her article on Xconomy, Shah reports that programmers are using their background in tech development to address other big civic problems.  

What if all government services were this good? / Code for America



Code for America is a 501(c)3 nonprofit working to make government work in the digital age. They sponsor a national day of civic hacking, when hackers from across the country put their heads together to solve big problems like social security, data storage and inmate rehabilitation 


Tragedies like Hurricane Harvey generate billions of dollars in philanthropic donations from regular people, but because of the scale involved, disaster response has a reputation for heavy bureaucracy and inefficient communication. The right tools can optimize those donations to help as many people as possible. 


This new faction of civic-minded engineers is creating an opensource model for disaster response which can be shared and replicated around the world. 


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