Announcing the ASPR Facebook Challenge: Apps for Disaster Preparedness

Health 2.0 is honored to be working with HHS, ASPR, FEMA and the team to bring you this latest challenge. Ubiquitous technologies like Facebook, text-messaging and Google are often the first tools we reach for when trying to connect with family members who are at risk. After disaster, Facebook walls cascade with words of support, resources and critical information for both victims AND those seeking information on their well being. The challenge we’ve put together asks developers to leverage this naturally occurring social phenomenon and build something better. A Facebook wall is elegant in its compatibility and simplicity but we think it’s time to expect more from these tools and the way developers help citizens use them. I could not be more excited by this challenge so please reach out to me with any questions or suggestions. — Deb Linton

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (HHS ASPR) issue the ASPR Lifeline Facebook Application Developer Challenge in collaboration with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Health 2.0.

The online challenge opens today as the country prepares to commemorate the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on Aug. 29 and runs throughout National Preparedness Month in September and the remainder of the 2011 hurricane season, closing Nov. 4.

“After disasters, a tremendous number of people use Facebook to post and share information,” said Assistant Secretary Nicole Lurie, M.D., a rear admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service. “We’re challenging our country’s most innovative developers to create apps that help people use Facebook not only to reach out to friends and family for help after emergencies but also to become better prepared in the first place.”

The person or team developing the best application will receive $10,000 from HHS, free admission to the 2012 Health 2.0 Conference and will be invited to an HHS event with Dr. Lurie. Second place will be awarded $5,000, and third place will receive $1,000.

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While most tools take months or years to roll out, the first place challenge winner will work with the U.S. government and Facebook immediately to get the application into use just weeks after selection.

Submissions will be judged on the application’s ability to enhance community connections and improve individual preparedness. The goal is an application that enables a Facebook user to invite three Facebook friends to become “lifelines,” points of contact who agree to act as a source of support during disasters such as providing transportation, a place to stay or anything else the Facebook friend may need.

The ideal application includes a way for users to identify lifelines, to create and share a personal preparedness plan with these lifelines and to encourage others to use the application. Additional consideration will be given to applications that are easy to use on basic mobile devices, incorporate Geographic Information System (GIS) for locating or tagging and connecting with other social media and emergency relief technologies.

All submissions will be reviewed by judges from Facebook, ASPR, FEMA, and the New Orleans Health Commissioner.

The HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response coordinates the federal public health and medical response to disasters, leading the nation in preventing, preparing for, and responding to the adverse health effects of public health emergencies and disasters. ASPR focuses on preparedness planning as well as response; building federal emergency medical operational capabilities; countermeasures research, advance development, and procurement; and grants to strengthen the capabilities of hospitals and health care systems in public health emergencies and medical disasters. To learn more about ASPR, visit



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