We've been participating in future cities hackathons trying to figure out ways that we can use technology to help people. One area of interest is in emergency response systems. We're amazed at the outpouring of support we have seen during the Coronoavirus pandemic and wanted to offer some simple tools to help connect volunteers with people that need help.

What it does

Helping Hands is a peer to peer emergency response platform that connects people who need help with nearby volunteers through web or sms.

In an emergency, such as a hurricane or pandemic, the government could send out a mass text or quickly put up a support website.

On web, users could register to help others or to get help. The website pulls the location automatically and takes other basic info like your phone number and what you need.

Once submitted, the user can view some additional help resources while they wait for a volunteer.

Volunteers can view a map with the closest requests listed at the top. Someone needs an inhaler picked up, or their dog walked, or maybe they need some tech support setting up FaceTime.

You can click to see more details and to assign a task to yourself. Assigned and completed tasks go at the bottom.

But, the internet might be down during a crisis or some people might be on low-bandwidth phones, so we’ve also made the entire support platform available through sms.

People who need help can request it by text and either view the mobile web, or respond through sms. They can provide their location and specific need and it will be added to the platform.

As a volunteer, I can offer help also through SMS, select the type of help I can give, for example picking up groceries, and tell the platform when I am available to help. The platform matches me with a nearby person in need of that help.

How I built it

A team of volunteers from SF AppWorks built the prototype over the weekend, using Twilio for SMS, React and Node,js for the web app, and Heroku and MongoDB to deploy.

Challenges I ran into

Time is always a challenge during a hackathon, as is limiting the feature set.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

We're happy we got the happy flow on sms and web worked out, in particular the handover from web users to sms users.

What's next for Helping Hands

We're looking for opportunities to pilot the platform in areas of need.

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