A Design Solution To Help Hurricane Survivors


About The Project

Overview: This project was done as a part of a UXathon (a UX hackathon) organized by UXPA @ Pratt Institute. It was a 6-hour event, where participants competed to solve a specific real-world problem through rapid prototyping and design thinking.

Discipline: Design thinking, Ideation, Prototyping, User Testing, User Research

Design Tools: Balsamiq and POP by Marvel

Year of Completion: October 2018

Team Members: Naman Sehgal, Yvonne Chow, Kexin Cha, Sherry

The Challenge

Design a set of tools, physical or digital, that will help first responders, survivors, or people who want to help in recovery efforts after a natural disaster.

Our Approach to the challenge

Understanding Users

Focus On The User And All Else Will Follow

The first goal from the get-go was to reduce the scope of the disaster. This led to our first consensus as a team to focus on hurricanes. It helped us focus on the right kind of target audience.

We started the process of user research by conducting an open-ended research on the internet due to our time constraint. We also ran a couple of unstructured telephonic interviews with the survivors of hurricane Harvey. This gave us a good insight into the problems faced by the survivors.

Key Insights

Disaster Relief is a problem faced by countries all over the world. They are left to deal with the after-effects of the deadly hurricanes like Harvey and Irma. It is truly disappointing that better infrastructure, safety, and rescue efforts are not facilities that are available easily.

Based on our research and telephonic conversation we narrowed down our scope to three main problems that are faced by the survivors -

  • Food and Water
  • From our conversation with a survivor of hurricane Harvey, we learned that they faced a lot of problem-related to food and water as they had limited stock in their pantries. One of the survivors mentioned that they were being helped by a local organization but they were not getting the right kind of supplies from them.

    As per an article in the Business Insider, we also found that humans can go without food for about three weeks but would typically only last three to four days without water.

  • Connectivity
  • During these deadly hurricanes, power outages are very common which makes it harder for people to get in touch with their loved ones through telephone lines.

    "I really had connectivity issues during hurricane Harvey. I wasn’t able to hear about the preventive measures the government was taking because my phone was dead and I had no power." - Hurricane Harvey Survivor

  • Transportation
  • As per reports, roads are shut down for general public well before the hurricane hits the area. This causes a lot of disturbance in that area as people are not able to move around in search of groceries or safe spots. During our research, we learned that in Florida, some Counties run their evacuation transportation service in association with the local fire department and the Department of Emergency Management. It is a free service where they take you to a local safe shelter. Though it is a very helpful service one interesting catch here is that they expect everyone to get their emergency survival kits that are food and other necessary supplies.


After analyzing the data, we created a user persona of one of the survivor. It mainly had information about her behaviors, pain points, and needs.

Problem Statement

A Problem Well Stated Is Half Solved

There are many small organizations who work in the areas affected by a hurricane but they don’t come together and work collaboratively. Due to which basic needs of all the survivors like better connectivity, food and water are not met efficiently.

brainstorming and mapping ideas

The Best Way To Have A Good Idea - Have A Lot Of Ideas

With our persona and the problem statement in mind, we started brainstorming ideas, both individually, and as a group. We worked to come up with a solution that had a good balance of achievable and aspirational goals.


It All Begins With An Idea

After a lot of discussions and pitching unorthodox yet useful ideas within our team, we come up with a solution that we thought would be the best for our target audience. We made sure that it was a mix of both achievable and aspirational goals.

We came up with an application called OpenResuce where survivors can ask for drones to deliver relevant aid faster.

We divided this idea into two sections -

Mobile Application

A mobile application to order basic food, water, and a power bank so that they can be connected to the world and their loved ones.

Drone Delivery

Drone Delivery technology to deliver the basic necessities that the survivors order via the mobile application. For futuristic design, we also added heat and motion sensors to these drones.

These sensors would map out people with disabilities or people who are not connected due to the lack of phone service and electricity. These drones will also be powered by state of the art artificial intelligence having mind mapping technology. They would be able to read the survivors mind and deliver to them the basic necessities.

Designing the interface

Everything Is Designed. Few Are Designed Well.

After a rigorous design thinking process and with our solution in mind we started the designing process with paper prototyping. We began discussing and brainstorming more ideas of how we wanted our screens to look. We designed a total of seven screens of the interface.

User Testing

These paper prototypes were an efficient way to get our ideas across visually. So we thought that they would serve as our artifacts to conduct usability testing with. To make the user test more realistic and engaging we gave our participant a scenario.

*Due to time constraint, we could just recruit one user for our user test.


Imagine that you are a hurricane survivor and you are in desperate need of food, water and a place to charge your mobile phone.

User Tasks

  1. Task 1: Order a power bundle for your phone.
  2. Task 2: After placing the order, change your delivery location.

User Feedback

Overall, the user gave us a positive response while testing our prototypes, but he also pointed out one minor improvement in the interface that helped us in making the final prototype more user-friendly.

Feedback provided in the user testing was:

  • Users wanted a better flow of the prototype.
    • Problem: The user pointed out a small issue in the user flow of the prototype. While doing the user test he expected the order placing screen before the screen where he selected his location.
    • User Quote: "Not sure why I see a map first since I mainly need food/power.”
    • Solution: We swapped the order of the wireframes to improve the user flow.

Final Prototype

In order to convey our ideas in a more complete and a professional manner, we made a working prototype using Balsamiq and Marvel POP.

Here is the interactive prototype -

Primary Design Decisions

Pitching Our idea

Simple Yet Incisive Pitch

For this UXathon, the last step was to pitch our idea to the judges who were UX professionals from Capital One, Bloomberg and Zocdoc.

In our presentation, we discussed the possible partnerships that our solution can have in the future. Companies like Google, Amazon, and Uber can partner with government organizations to come forward and help the people affected by hurricanes. These tech giants have adequate money to do charity work and enough resources to build this technology.

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

In the end, our team was declared the winner of this UXathon. The judges were really impressed with how well our team put the story together. They also thought that the solution was a good balance of feasible and aspirational targets.


Overall I think the event was a good investment of my time to get a hands-on approach to solving problems quickly by the means of UX. However, if I had more time I would have invested it in user research to create a better solution.