This project aims to find ways to optimize the supply and demand of physical donations that shelters receive following a disaster. 

The Project 

There have been countless natural disaster-related incidents where physical donations sent to shelters have gone missing, misused, or disposed of. In January 2020, Puerto Rico citizens discovered an entire warehouse full of unused supplies that were meant for relief during  Hurricane Maria 2017. In September 2014, after the Boles Fire burned through Weed, CA, at least two trailers full of unwanted donated items were transported to the local dump.

Our student-led research team at UC Berkeley is addressing these issues by developing a web application for survivors of natural disasters to better find resources and help other survivors. Ideally, it would allow people to thread whether the donation is still there, upvote/downvote, comment, and share the information gathered into the main map of our web application. We would also like to help donors by giving them a way to figure out where to give certain donations based on need. We hope for the web application to be eventually used at shelters as a way to approximate what resources are there.

[[{"fid":"1902","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false,"field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":false},"type":"media","field_deltas":{"1":{"format":"default","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false,"field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":false}},"attributes":{"style":"float: left;","class":"media-element file-default","data-delta":"1"}}]]With scarce data related to post-disaster donations, we tried to collect data on the donation retrieval sites, in addition, the most efficient ways to collect and disseminate the donations. This is the ultimate goal that will come out of collecting and populating a live map tracking donations locations, quantities, and quality.

This semester, we researched and compiled potential non-profit organizations to partner with. We ultimately chose the UC Berkeley Food Pantry because they were geographically accessible and more likely to collaborate with our team. We interviewed their manager regarding questions of their process of handling, use of a digital system, as well as pros and cons. One notable feedback was, wishing the process of handling was more “streamlined. Especially with labeling donation items which is important because of food safety and for access and communication to our pantry users. Volunteers aren't all on the same page and we don't have a super clear way to communicate the slightly complicated conditions for food that can be accepted and what questions to ask the donors.” These responses help us determine what features we need not neglect in our web application.

Our group has created a web application that helps crowdsource information from survivors about what resources they observe in the evacuation centers they’re in. We will take the information provided and display it on a map including all the shelters.

Some design choices we made included choosing to make a web application, as it can be used both on a computer and phone, and does not require the extra step of downloading the app. We also decided to make the form relatively shorter and mostly optional to help users give as much accurate information with whatever amount of time they can afford. 

Diving into the more technical details, once users submit the donation observation form through the web application, it gets passed through the google form it is linked to. This itself is linked to a google sheet, which parses the most recent response from each shelter and sends it to Tableau. On Tableau, the information gets displayed into a map, which contains a multitude of other descriptive information about the shelter. Ideally, in the future, our google sheets information will be processed in more detail (and aggregate responses) through jupyter notebook or the like. 

Some stakeholders in this problem include the government, first responders, and the general population (that may be involved in a natural disaster). The government typically has to take the lead in dealing with natural disasters so having another tool to help them organize would be quite helpful. Furthermore, first responders are often overloaded with helping survivors, so having an application that will help organize donations a little more would lighten their load. The general population, including the survivors, will take the responsibility of inputting information to the database, by observing the distribution of donated goods in the shelters. They will be able to benefit from the information though, and it will help donors (of physical or monetary donations) to decide where to donate their resources.

Overall, government institutes and first responders are able to use the website to crowdsource information on real-time goods location; donors will be able to pinpoint the shelters that are most in need of monetary or physical goods; and the survivors will utilize the donations in the way so that the goods won’t go into waste.

Tiffany Tong

Susan Lin


Spring 2020