The future of emergency preparedness is ultra personalized, according to Florida entrepreneur Joe Russo.
That thesis was certainly put to the test last week as his startup Emergency Ventures kicked its launch into hyperdrive in order to help Floridians in the wake of Hurricane Ian, which made landfall as a category 4 storm in southwest Florida.
As a web app, Emergency provides situational awareness before, during, and after an emergency situation in a community. During natural disasters such as a hurricane, the goal is to provide “ultra-personalized information,” said Russo. It is about going beyond the generic, and largely unhelpful, blast text messages sent by FEMA or other federal agencies.
It is also about combating the “boy who cried wolf mentality” that happens when people are given misleading information about evacuations in order to improve how and when people react to disaster declarations. During the recovery phase, the app can provide detailed geo-specific information about local services, like whether grocery stores or hotels are open.
“This is what’s going to happen to me and my house at a specific time. That’s what our applications are meant to do,” added Russo. “With that sense of safety, security, and just very clearly articulating risk, we can save lives.”
Launching Emergency In Time For An Emergency
Emergency is personal for Florida native Russo, who previously built up the South Florida Tech Hub as a go-to ecosystem resource.
In 2017 he worked on emergency response efforts following Hurricane Irma, a category five storm that killed over 100 people in South Florida. As he was working with teams to get food and water to those in need, he recognized a fundamental flaw with getting information out to the public.
“Recovery is not a couple of days. Some of these communities will never be the same. And most of them will take a couple of years to get back to where they need to be,” he added.
Emergency got off the ground in 2021 in West Palm Beach, but last week was crunch time for the startup as Russo and the team prepared for Hurricane Ian.
“We pulled in code school students and did an overnight hackathon…and I was up for 36 hours straight,” Russo told Hypepotamus.
That showcased the “citizen-first tech” approach that Emergency looks to create. Over the last week, the platform has improved its capacity to visualize disaster data.
“I saw a massive hole in technology as a construct of our society. You can go and buy something on your phone and get it sent to you immediately. But during an emergency, we can’t,” he added. “We need to build a community of folks who realize that emergency management is as precious a technology need in the 21st century as anything.”
Southeast Tech Takes On Disaster Relief
Emergency Ventures is one of several startups in the region dedicated to disaster relief technology. Specifically surrounding Hurricane Ian efforts, Tampa-based drone technology startup PayPixl launched a free Hurricane Ian damage app giving evacuees street-level details about their properties and volunteers and media companies with the various relief projects.
This is the first time PayPixl has worked specifically on disaster recovery efforts, founder and CEO Bobby Quinn told Hypepotamus.
“Both ground imagery (smartphone/ camera) and drone imagery are so important during disaster relief efforts. While traditional aerial and satellite provide insight to damage on a large scale, drone and ground imagery provide a “magnifying glass” and allows the viewer to assess conditions as they would at the ground level. It answers questions, that can’t be answered by traditional aerial and satellite like: 1. How deep does that flood water appear? 2. Are the windows, doors, walls still in place? 3. Are there people in the imagery? How do they look: are they tired, injured, healthy?,” Quinn added.
On a wider level, Southeast startups are rallying to help better prepare communities for coming emergencies. Some such startups include WindTL, which is looking to better understand wind patterns during wildfire emergencies, and Citibot, a Charleston-based smart messaging platform designed to improve how governments communicate with residents and constituents.
Photo provided by PayPixl