Two of the winning applications from the Department of Health and Human Services Facebook challenge went live on Thursday in conjunction with the official start of hurricane season.
Each application helps people support each other during an emergency and become better prepared by identifying lifelines – friends a user can count on to check on them during an emergency, supply them with shelter, food and other necessities or provide the user’s social network with an update on their situation.
“After disasters, a tremendous number of people use Facebook to post and share information, so developing a Facebook app that would help people establish social connections they’ll need in an emergency seemed like a natural way to enhance community and individual resilience,” explained Dr. Nicole Lurie, assistant secretary for preparedness and response, Health and Human Services, and a rear admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service.
The two apps, bReddi and Project: Lifeline, do more than allow users to identify lifelines. They also let users create and share personal preparedness plans, and track the status of their Facebook friends in disaster-affected areas.
This capability means people can more easily learn whether their loved ones are safe, helping the people affected by the disaster and those searching for missing people. The apps also allow users to print cards with a snapshots of their preparedness plans to carry in their wallets as quick references about what to do when a disaster strikes.
“The question is, who can you count on in an emergency and who can count on you?” Lurie said. “We know that people who have friends or relatives they can rely on for help are healthier and live longer than those who don’t, and that every disaster has the potential to impact health, so having people you can depend on for help is especially important during a disaster. That’s why we are encouraging everyone to identify their lifelines in advance.”