Project: Lifeline is now live.

Winner of the ASPR/Health 2.0 Developer Challenge, Lifeline lets you view and request accurate information on friends and family trapped in disaster-affected areas. When disaster strikes, this is your command center.

The Problem

When a friend or family member goes missing in a disaster, you will not be able to offer them any support until you can locate them. Even though we are surrounded by social media networks, these networks can often be too congested or full of misinformation to operate effectively in an emergency.

The Cause

While our existing social networks excel at their specialized tasks, they lack important properties desirable in a robust emergency network. Direct messages and emails make it hard to get the word out that someone needs help. Conversely, public statuses often suffer from misinformation via "telephone" effects.

The Solution

In August, 2011, the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response challenged developers to address the lack of a good system for leveraging our networks to prepare for disasters. Project: Lifeline emerged from that challenge, taking first place by providing a single, unified interface that augments your existing social networks, resulting in a fast, complete, and reliable communication tool specialized for disaster scenarios.

The Project: Lifeline interface displays the members of your social graph. From within Project: Lifeline you may report a friend "missing," which will update the interface to reflect that. After your friend has been reported missing, Project: Lifeline will attempt to contact them—along with any "lifelines" they have registered—and they or any of their lifelines can update the interface to authoritatively declare that your friend is safe and well. If your friend does not respond and none of their lifelines are able to locate them, Lifeline will help you both get the word out to their larger social graph and coordinate efforts to support them. Throughout the entire process, every member of your friend's social network will be able to come to the interface and view trustworthy, up-to-date information on your friend's status, allowing you to focus on what you need to do to support them.

While Project: Lifeline was designed with large-scale natural disaster in mind, because it draws on your own social graph you really have a wide latitude in how you use it. It would be a good idea to add as lifelines family members and some close friends who are likely to know your whereabouts if something unexpected happens. If you will be travelling, it may be useful to add any travelling companions or contacts in places where you will be travelling for the duration of your trip. Perhaps parents could ask their children to add classmates' parents, making it easier to keep track of whose house their children are at. The project is now live, so see for your self.