Helping victims and volunteers communicate more effectively during a disaster

This project was part of the "CS 8803: Mobile Applications and Services" Class at Georgia Tech. The goal was to design and build an app that helps victims and volunteers communicate for help more effectively.

Using the app, victims can request for help, and volunteers/NGOs can reach out to victims to provide help.
When a user creates a request for help, the message is broadcast to other users within a certain mile radius. These requests can be for food, shelter, clothes and so on. Any user within that specific radius can respond to these requests.

During a disaster, internet access is often not available as well. The app lets users identify the closest shelter, hospitals, restrooms, gas station etc. too, offline.

Tools I Used: Balsamiq (to create wire-frames), Sketch (for creating High Fidelity designs), Zeplin (to Generate styleguide and for design handoff), Pixton (to develop the storyboards), Invision (for Prototyping both the wireframes and high fidelity designs)
Team Members:

Team Members: Geunbae Lee, Sathya K, Soorya Eswaran, Sowmya Y

Jump to
The problems and how we identified them
Insights to concepts, Wireframes, and High Fidelity Design
How we measured if our solution actually works



During a disaster,

  • Communication networks fail, making it difficult to reach out to someone for help
  • Victims want help with basic necessities like food, water or shelter, but does not know whom to reach out to
  • Difficult for unaffected users today to become volunteers, or be able to effectively communicate/reach out to victims to provide help
  • Shelters are sometimes not accessible
  • Most apps available in the marketplace today help share information about a disaster. But none are targeted towards post disaster communication, to give and take help.

How did we identify key pain points?

Some of the user research methods conducted

01. Unstructured Interviews
4 Participants

To learn from people, who have been in a disaster situation previously, what their experience had been like

We took note of things that they thought of doing first, what their concerns were, who they reached out to, and how they got help. We also spoke to NGOs and volunteers to learn more about how they found victims, and co-ordinated with other volunteers.

02. Competitive Analysis

Our goal was to see if any of the apps had attempted to solve the problem, and if & how people were using any of these apps to overcome the problem indirectly today

We found that each app had different strengths and weaknesses, and catered to different user needs. It also showed us what some of the 'must-have' features were for our product.

What were some of our key insights?

These insights were the basis of our design concepts

Lack of Knowledge

People needed help during a disaster, but didn't know where to go looking for it beyond their network of friends or family

Safety Concerns

Not knowing if the person poses offering help poses any danger or is reliable

Lack of confidence

Feels like help is unattainable or far away. Assumes that help is for select few or is not willing to ask for help.


Will people of the same disaster affected locality empathise with each others needs better and be more likely to come forward to help each other?

How we synthesised our research findings

The personas that drove our design decisions


  • Prefers to communicate via mobile app through texts, over calling
  • Mobile first generation - very comfortable finding & searching for things using a phone
  • Does not consume a lot of TV news
  • Likes independence - find help on own
  • Easily stressed during danger

Coincidental Volunteers

  • Residents who want to help others but not associated with any NGO
  • Older age group, access to more resources - food, shelter, money, etc
  • Not necessarily adept at using finding and searching for information online
  • Aware of current events, and watches News on TV or online





Bottom Slider
See help centres nearby through a clickable bottom slider. Bottom Slider moves horizontally to show the selected location on the map using blue marker

Map View to List view
Easily switch between map view and list view to view tasks. Map view mainly helps the victims identify resources nearby. List view helps volunteers help out sooner

Request details
Request details has 2 cards - for details of help needed and comments. Also has a fixed footer to enter comments - both text and audio



How we know if our solution works?

Findings from usability testing conducted with 3 participants

  • The app design feels oriented towards volunteers, than victims -> we’ve made design changes where the user can switch between victims and volunteers. Also, the map view would now be the home page
  • Participants also wanted in some way to verify that the volunteer is genuine (not dangerous). We’re still figuring out how to do this. One consideration is that we include social indicators like "You have 3 friends in common", or "Works for RedCross".
  • People felt they might be representing multiple organizations, and wanted an option to switch roles. We have added this to our design.
  • A participant quoted "I was not able to type properly.. hands were trembling" -> this learning led us to design an interactive voice response feature, to create and respond to requests. We also felt this would be a good accessibility feature for the app.
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