Challenge – Emergency and Response

Doing Good is Good Business / Week 5 / Group Challenge


Danni Huang, Jaycee Holmes, Utsav Chadha

Problem Statement :

A natural disaster wiped out the entire infrastructure of the borough except your city block. You must figure out what resources you have access to. Then map out the areas of greatest need and who is most vulnerable and should be provided relief first. How would you prioritize where aid should be delivered? Document your process.


While discussing the problem, we realized that before prioritizing areas of relief or resources needed, it’s important to figure out a safe place with storage capacity for people as well as supplies. Next step is to organize all the individuals and divide them into teams with specific responsibilities. Thereafter, an assessment of the available resources and rescue operations can be made. Our model was a three part approach – Identify, Survive and Assess. We conducted an incremental study of the block in terms of the range. Starting with the NYU Tisch building itself, we moved on to the surrounding block and then to the city of NYC as a whole. The entire process has been documented in the following slides:
Link to the slides : Disaster Response

 Challenges Encountered:

1. One of the major challenges with disaster preparedness and response is the uncertainty associated with the time and intensity of the disaster. For disasters such as a blizzard or hurricanes, fortunately predictions can be made. However, for situations such as earthquakes and tsunamis it’s difficult to be prepared and respond accordingly. For our particular assignment, we stuck to the situation of a hurricane hitting Lower Manhattan.
2. Although Identify, Survive and Assess seem like logical order of steps. However, in the situation of an emergency people would try to survive first and do everything else later. It’s important to keep in mind that there can be a widespread panic situation and one should be prepared to handle such a situation.
3. There are many different resources with a similar listed process when it comes to disaster management and relief. There is not one centralized system that is in place and is responsible for emergency situations.

 Lessons Learned:

1. Initially, while starting on the problem we were inclined to look at it as a problem of disaster preparedness and not disaster response. Because prevention is always better than cure. However, Benedetta and Tanya pointed this out in time that a first hand experience of the situation always helps in evaluating the kind of preparations that need to be in order. This also brought us back to the design thinking workshop, wherein to put oneself in the user’s shoes as the first step of assessing a problem and developing a solution. In terms of a disaster, the user is the responder. It was a helpful exercise to view ourselves as the responders first and then thinking about preparedness. There were many things that we were missing out and overall, it gave us a very good perspective into how we should approach a solution.
2. Don’t think big. It’s always better to tackle the problem at a smaller scale before going for bigger and university-wide or city-wide solutions.
3. Keep in mind the panic a disaster can create. Perhaps, survive, identify and survive should be the starting steps for disaster response.

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