This post was originally produced for Forbes.
Field Innovation Team or FIT is bringing hi-tech into the disaster recovery arena by training responders to use it and developing strategic relationships with technology partners to bring their best to bear when it’s needed most.
FIT, a nonprofit, has been in the game since 2010 and has responded to hurricane Sandy, the Boston Marathon Bombing and the 2014 mudslide in Oso, Washington.
By deploying drones over the mudslide, FIT was able to get a better read on the dangerous topography than would have been possible with manned aircraft and was able to do it without putting any humans at risk.
FIT will be taking its robot petting zoo to SXSW. The collection of robots of all sorts that can be used for one purpose or another in disaster recovery. The petting zoo was first assembled to help entertain and educate kids stuck in the 2014 border crisis as young people from Central America sought refuge in the U.S. in unprecedented numbers.
On Thursday, January 29, 2015 at 7:00 PM, Eastern, Desi Matel-Anderson of FIT will join me for a live discussion about the technology, impact, plans and responses she sees. Tune in here then to watch the interview live.
More about FIT:
FIT has been responding to disasters since 2010. In its early days, FIT operated as a grassroots group working together for neighborhood disaster resilience. Now a non-profit, FIT volunteers from across the globe deploy to disasters and work on disaster risk reduction and resiliency efforts.
Past work in disasters includes hurricane Sandy in 2012, the 2013 Moore, OK tornadoes, the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, Philippines typhoon Haiyan in 2013, and the 2014 mudslide in Oso, WA. FIT has also worked with refugee children from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras in the USA as result of the unaccompanied migrant minor crisis.
In 2012, FIT’s projects include collaboration with FEMA to redesign its Disaster Recovery Centers and development of the concept that later became FEMA’s Disaster Survivor Assistance Program.
In 2013, FIT worked with the Drupal Conference to create housing and ride-sharing apps for stranded survivors of the 2013 Moore, OK tornadoes. After Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines in November, 2013, FIT sent a crew to set up a heat map demonstrating internet connectivity.
In 2014, FIT’s disaster response engagements included working in the Oso, WA with collaborators to develop computer-generated 3D interactive reconstructive models and 3D prints of the Oso mudslide. These outputs increased situational awareness of impassable terrain and helped keep first responders safe. In Oso and following the Pilger, NE twin tornadoes, FIT worked with Splunk4Good to develop and pilot the Donations Tracking Dashboard app for county officials and volunteer coordinators aiding the response. In support of the US and Mexico border crisis response, FIT worked with designers, artists, and thespians to develop a recreational activities curriculum designed to build community within refugee and disaster-displaced populations.
In 2014, highlights of FIT’s work on disaster resilience and preparedness building included the Washington Community Innovation Summit with the Washington Governor’s Office, Futurecasting earthquakes with Intel INTC -2.92% Inc.’s Brian David Johnson, Autodesk ADSK -1.97%, the California Lieutenant Governors Office, and the California Office of Emergency Services. FIT supported and helped facilitate the third Canada-U.S. Enhanced Resiliency Experiment (CAUSE III) aimed at demonstrating how new technologies can enable Canadian and U.S. emergency responders to exchange situational awareness information as an incident unfolds. FIT also ran two disaster innovator Bootcamps to train its next generation of volunteers for disaster activation and to prototype solutions to anticipated problems brought on by crises.
Desi Matel-Anderson is the Chief Wrangler of FIT and CEO of the Global Disaster Innovation Group, LLC. Desi is the first and former Chief Innovation Advisor at FEMA and Think Tank Strategic Vision Coordinator. During her tenure at FEMA, she led the first innovation team TISI -1.69% down to Hurricane Sandy to provide real-time problem solving in disaster response and recovery and ran think tanks nation-wide to cultivate innovation in communities. Her emergency management experience began when she volunteered in Northern Illinois University’s Office of Emergency Planning. She then worked with the Southeast Wisconsin Urban Area Security Initiative, and the City of Milwaukee Homeland Security and Emergency Management Office. In addition to her regional emergency management duties, she worked as an assessor of the Emergency Management Accreditation Program Assessor nation-wide.
She has since worked on numerous emergency management projects with agencies, communities, organizations and companies. She also lectures on innovation at Harvard, Yale, UC Berkeley and several other universities across the country and serves as consultant on innovative practices and infrastructure for agencies and governments, nationally and internationally. Desi attended the National Preparedness Leadership Institute at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and School of Public Health in 2011, served on the Advisory Board of Harvard’s National Preparedness Leadership Institute in 2013, and holds a faculty position at the Harvard Kennedy School. She obtained a Juris Doctorate from Northern Illinois University in 2009.