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Technology Challenges in Disaster Response: Learning from Hurricane Sandy’s Spontaneous Volunteers

By Aaron Mason on April 26, 2013

Technology Challenges in Disaster Response: Learning from Hurricane Sandy’s Spontaneous Volunteers

San Francisco Technology Salon – Tuesday, May 7, 2013 – RSVP for this event

The days following the landfall of Hurricane Sandy saw an unprecedented number of spontaneous volunteers arrive on the scene, ready to help. Empowered by technology, social media and just-in-time training, these efforts gave a powerful view of emergent groups and their ability to deliver. Facebook groups, twitter hashtags, volunteers and trained professionals surged in an unparalleled display of information exchange and boots on the ground.

But not everything went as planned. The spontaneous actions that make short-term response powerful can cripple long-term workflows and rebuilding efforts. With the rapid emergence of tools and the definition of “disaster response” suddenly up for grabs, cultures clashed.

This next Technology Salon will focus on the technologies that manifested in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. We’ll be examining current ICT frameworks in disaster response, new ideas and potential improvements. Special attention will be paid to mobilization and information sharing between decentralized, agile responses and large organizations. Our lead discussant is Jeremey Horan, Director of Operations for All Hands Volunteers, a volunteer-based disaster response organization at the center of the Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts. Conversations at this Salon will help guide a presentation at the National VOAD conference in Portland on May 16th.

Preparing for the Salon Conversation

Before attending the salon here are things to consider:

  • How can technology bridge the gap between community organizers and traditional response, both pre- and post-disaster?
  • What were the top 10 most useful platforms used during the recovery?
  • How does the scope of technology change with the different stages of disaster response?
  • What are the biggest data challenges surrounding short and long term response?
  • How can these lessons be applied in an international setting?

If you’d like to join the discussion beforehand, suggest resources or browse suggestions from others, please review and add to our pre-discussion resource page.


Please join a select cohort of thought leaders and decision makers in international development, technology and disaster response. We’ll have only 30 people so everyone can participate and share, and there will be no PowerPoint or prolonged speeches so we can really dig in and discuss.

You must RSVP to be confirmed for attendance.

Technology Challenges in Disaster Response
San Francisco Technology Salon
9:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Tuesday, May 7th, 2013
Inveneo Headquarters
972 Mission Street, 5th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94103, USA (map)

We’ll have hot coffee, donuts and fruit for a morning rush, but seating is limited. So RSVP ASAP to be confirmed for attendance: once we reach our 30-person capacity there will be a waiting list.

Technology Salon
About the Technology Salon™The Technology Salon™ is an intimate, informal, and in person, discussion between information and communication technology experts and international development professionals, with a focus on both:

  • technology’s impact on donor-sponsored technical assistance delivery, and
  • private enterprise driven economic development, facilitated by technology.

Our meetings are lively conversations, not boring presentations. Attendance is capped at 30 people – and frank participation with ideas, opinions, and predictions is actively encouraged. It’s also a great opportunity to meet others motivated to employ technology to solve vexing development problems. Join us today!

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Written by
Aaron Mason is a technology and development expert with experience in design, analytics, ICT and disaster response. Follow him on Twitter: @Aaron_Mason
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2 Comments to “Technology Challenges in Disaster Response: Learning from Hurricane Sandy’s Spontaneous Volunteers”

  1. Evert Bopp says:

    Will this event be streamed online or is there a possibility to remotely participate?

  2. Aaron Mason says:

    Evert – The Salons are in-person meetings only, so we won’t be streaming them.