Hurricane Sandy – Field Innovation Power

New York

Guest Post by Robin Reid, Design Student from NYU – After Hurricane Sandy hit New York, we were amazed by the work that was being done on the ground by so many relief organizations to help the residents of our city. As design students, we were taking creative ways that relief volunteers and ordinary citizens were working within tough constraints for the sole purpose of serving others. We were particularly impressed by the presence and dedication by the team from Humanity Road in the Rockaways. They successfully addressed a seemingly small, but crucial issue — how to make power accessible for the nurses and community leaders that were working hard to identify and support their most vulnerable neighbors.

In the midst of that experience, we were inspired to tweak a product that we had in development, and this is how the PowerClip emerged.

The basis for our inspiration was to find a way empower first-responders and victims with a simple and safe way to access power immediately after a disaster. We wanted to enable an opportunity that would allow people to keep their communications devices healthy. This way relief coordination, connecting with loved ones and friends could happen without interruption.

The PowerClip first field test took place off of the shores of the US. After the typhoon in the Philippines in December of 2013, PowerClip proved to be a trustworthy, modular product for UNICEF field agents who found themselves in devastating conditions, and they needed to supplement some of the tools that they had on hand for accessing power for charging cell phones.

The UNICEF/ Philippines experience gave us invaluable feedback and has inspired development for an even broader use case. We realized, that we could have the ability to address needs of the many people who have to constantly contending with intermittent access to power. While our original thoughts were focused primarily on disaster scenarios, we now think that perhaps this product can be useful to some segment of the world population on a daily basis.

With that in mind, we have moved onto yet another variation of the clip, one that can be adjusted to larger vehicle batteries, such as a truck, or smaller ones, such as moped.

We excitedly are preparing for short run pilot in Vietnam, to give us further insights on how the clip can be used by populations living off of the grid.

We are looking forward to the feedback and finalizing a product that can be useful to disaster volunteers and general populations alike.

We met Robin Reid through the FEMA Innovation Team project two years ago this week. Today marks two years since we deployed to St. Francis de Sales Church and School in Rockaway New York. You can read about our command center and battery powered recharging station on the Microsoft Disaster Response blog

Technology and technology partners are essential services that empower information management and coordination during disaster response. “It’s a vital service,” states Thompson. “They help the public and responders communicate to improve the chain of care and recovery.” Through collaborations and support from Academia, NonProfit Sector, FEMA and Department of Homeland Security these type of programs leverage lessons learned and improve disaster response.

This photo shows the communications center in Rockaway, NY which was powered by a car battery and helped over 48,000 people.