Just a year after fires ravaged Napa Valley and California’s wine country in 2018 and only weeks since the Brentwood area of Los Angeles battled fires of its own, CODE & RESPONSE screened at the Napa Valley Film Festival exploring the topic of seemingly worsening natural disasters and what can be done to combat them. The documentary takes viewers around the world to see how technology is being implemented to help prevent and recover areas that have been affected by natural disasters.
In Washington State, Kenji Kato is developing an app, Wildfire Report, designed to help both first responders and communities more accurately track the progress of fires and help find the safest routes to evacuate—whether or not they have cellular service. So much of the danger from wildfires stems from the fact that the authorities cannot access real-time information and disseminate it to area residents once communications like phone service and Wi-Fi go down. The lack of warning and communication systems in remote areas has unfortunately led to many deaths like the 86 people that perished in the Camp Fire in Paradise, CA.
In the aftermath of an earthquake in Mexico City, beacons are now functional without Wi-Fi to send in status reports from throughout the town. Likewise in Indonesia after a tsunami, technology was developed that could function without traditional communication systems to take note of what supplies were needed and match the need with the warehouses filled with pellets full of supplies delivered by international relief organizations.
Another promising technology showcased was the use of drones in disaster areas that can’t be accessed due to flooding or other damage. Puerto Rican, Pedro Cruz, developed DroneAid which uses AI-driven technology to scan the landscape for distress flags he provides to residents in Puerto Rico. The idea for this technology came after he was unable to communicate with or travel to check on his grandmother during Hurricane Maria.
Living in an earthquake zone myself, I wish that the government were funding initiatives such as these taken on truly impressive individuals who will undoubtedly save the lives of people and first responders throughout the world.