Emergency Management System Design

On September 30th, 2013, the UC Berkeley campus was in a declared state of emergency due to an explosion near California Hall causing several injuries and campus chaos. This event highlighted a major problem plaguing UC Berkeley’s current emergency response infrastructure: communication.

UC Berkeley’s existing communication infrastructure includes WarnMe, a system used to notify students of emergencies that are on campus via e-mail and SMS, Twitter updates, and various alarms and sounds to communicate emergency situations. Following the campus-wide power outage at 4:45pm, the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) in their after-action report (see sources below) claims that initial Warn-Me texts regarding the power outage were sent at 5:57pm and 6:03pm, nearly an hour after the outages began.

The goal of this project was to design a new two-way communication system that involves not only communication from campus administrators to the campus community, but also involvement of the community in relaying and updating information. Specifically, we will design a communication system to assist the direct campus area during 4 main scenarios: earthquakes, fires, hostile situations, and power outages.

After a series of brainstorming sessions and user interviews with key stakeholders, a two-prong concept including a Netpack and Defenders of Berkeley application was prototyped.

Netpack: In order to successfully support this communication through infrastructure, network backpacks (or NetPacks) could be deployed. Particularly in the event of emergencies where power outages occur, such backpacks would allow for quick deployment of ad hoc networks for various spots on campus. The NetPack’s physical design went through several different iterations. The prototyping began with a steel framed backpack with a heavy battery, generator, and router. This was used primarily for ergonomic prototyping to see if it seemed like a reasonable size and weight for users. The next iteration added more features to the pack including a power cable for recharging the battery, an ethernet cable for direct connection to the network, and a handcrank for recharging the backpack. The final iteration of our mockup finalized both the technology and the user interface of the NetPack. The simple interface is a single switch that causes lights to illuminate indicating the battery level and the status of the Wi-Fi network. We implemented the satellite generated Wi-Fi network utilizing the Wizard of Oz testing model with a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot (tethering). While not entirely functional as the mesh Wi-Fi network was not generated using satellite connectivity, the model was able to test if the user could identify its purpose, determine how it is used, and most importantly connect to the network.

Defenders of Berkeley Application: The implementation of a gamification app would allow us to create an interface to facilitate communication while keeping a light-hearted, unique interface. For prototyping the gamification-based mobile application, we employed a multi-step approach. First, we created basic wireframes for three distinct concepts—a conservative mobile web application, a downloaded mobile application with added day-to-day functionality, and finally, a complex role playing game approach. In order to better prototype the mobile application, we created a flow map to layout the user interaction. This mapping was referenced while designing the interfaces. Colors and styles from the UC Berkeley Admissions website were used in order to have a cohesive brand. Once these screens had been designed and generated, we prototyped the user flow in Proto.io and Marvel.  In order to increase transition fluidity and to create a more workable prototype, we used Java to develop an Android application.

A full report of the design process and solution can be found here.

The presentation given to the Emergency Management team can be found here.

Role: Team Lead

Team Members: Shouvik Dutta, Maxwell Eady, Jeff Khvu, Ian Herbert, Tian Liu, Winne Yan, Shefali Netke


App DesignHardware PrototypingDesign Process FacilitationRapid PrototypingUser TestingUser Research