In May 2012, the White House launched the Safety Data Initiative, an historic effort to make government data relating to every aspect of public and product safety, from crime to roadway safety to food safety, much more accessible, and to encourage the development of innovative apps and services fueled by those data to empower Americans with the information and tools to make smarter, safer choices. This initiative is part of the Administration’s larger commitment to unleash the power of open data. Over the past few years, the Federal Government has released troves of valuable data that were previously hard to access in order to enhance transparency and accountability, improve government services, promote innovation, and build a stronger economy.
Building on these efforts, today, the White House, and agencies including the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), are convening innovators from public safety, technology, academic, entrepreneurial, and government communities for the second-annual Safety Datapalooza, which will highlight important uses of government data to build products, services, and apps that advance public safety in creative and powerful ways. Announcements and event highlights include:
Applications, Tools, and Services:
New Emergency Information Hashtags:The White House, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Department of Energy are launching standardized hash tags (#PowerLineDown #NoFuel and #GotFuel ) to enable citizens to report important emergency information, such as downed power lines or whether a gas station has fuel, across social media platforms during disasters. Hashtags will be used by FEMA, the Department of Energy, survivors, first responders, state and local officials, and utility companies to improve disaster response and recovery efforts.
Leveraging Data to Help Prevent Illness:An estimated 1.3 million illnesses can be attributed to Salmonella bacteria every year. In an effort to help reduce the number of illnesses associated with products regulated by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), USDA will host a DataJam aimed at improving the accessibility and usability of FSIS data and empowering the public to leverage open data to help prevent illnesses.
Expanding Access to Food and Drug Safety Data: The Food and Drug Administration is announcing openFDA, a new initiative that will provide easy access to FDA datasets that support the agency’s regulatory mission, help educate the public, and save lives. The project will make several valuable FDA public datasets—including millions of adverse event and medication error reports on FDA-regulated drugs— available to the public for the first time, via application programming interfaces (APIs) and raw structured files.
Crowdsourcing to Improve Disaster Response: The Federal Emergency Management Agency and The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency are announcing the development of “GeoQ”, a tool that crowdsources geo-tagged photos of disaster-affected areas to assess damage over large regions. This information will allow the Federal Government to better allocate critical response and recovery resources to regions in need.
Reducing Hazardous Noises:Every year, approximately 30 million people in the United States are occupationally exposed to hazardous noise, which can cause permanent hearing loss. In an effort to reduce hazardous noises in the workplace, the U.S. Department of Labor will convene subject matter experts for a Data Jam event aimed at highlighting relevant data sets and brainstorming data-driven ideas to reduce workplace-related hearing loss.
Energy Emergency Preparedness:The U.S. Department of Energy is previewing “Lantern”, a mobile app that provides helpful information and assistance during a disaster. The mobile app is designed to provide consumers timely disaster preparedness tips and recommendations, allow consumers to report and access information on power outages and fallen power lines, and help users find fuel and report the status of gas stations.
Safety Warnings for Overseas Travel: The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs has released an online service to share Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts so that U.S. citizens have information about international travel risks—such as health alerts, ongoing crime and violence, or frequent terrorist attacks. The new Application Programming Interface (API) lets developers access these datasets from the State Department and integrate them into websites and mobile applications such as tourism guides and online travel sites.
Increasing Consumer Product Safety Awareness: The Consumer Product Safety Commission is announcing a “Safer Products App Challenge”, calling on innovators to create applications and tools that help raise awareness of product reports submitted through SaferProducts.gov and of consumer product recalls. SaferProducts.gov has more than 17,000 consumer reports with information about the manufacturer as well as data about the date, location and type of incident. The CPSC plans to announce challenge winners in summer 2014.
Monitoring Product-Related Injuries: The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System allows users to review information submitted by hospitals about product-related injuries including the products and body parts involved, injury type and diagnosis and patient statistical information. CPSC is releasing XML data of its consumer product recalls dating back to 1973, including product description, hazard, and recall date.
Mapping High-Risk Locations to Help Fight Crime: Rutgers University is showcasing, a “Risk Terrain Modeling” tool that uses crime data to identify and map high-risk locations, with the aim of helping law enforcement officers and others anticipate places where illegal behavior will most likely occur; identify where new crime incidents may emerge; and help to develop intervention strategies and tactically allocate resources. The Risk Terrain Modeling app is being offered free of charge to law enforcement agencies and can be used to help evaluate the crime risk of specific locations and to help focus crime prevention efforts on the areas that need it most.
Tracking Labor Law Violations:Created in response to the U.S. Department of Labor’s “Labor Data Challenge”, LaborSight is a tool designed to Promote Fair Labor practices by allowing consumers and job seekers to check whether local businesses have violated United States labor laws—including the severity of the violations. The tool is powered by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Inspections and Wage and Hour Investigations open data.
Disaster Response and Recovery Tech Corps Program:The Federal Emergency Management Agency will discuss the development of a Tech Corps Program with the goal of facilitating a national network of skilled, trained technology volunteers who can provide assistance during community response and recovery efforts following a federally declared disaster.
Using Technology to Improve Criminal Justice Operations
The National Institute of Justice’s $150,000 app challenge, “Ultra-High-Speed Apps: Using Current Technology to Improve Criminal Justice Operations”, promotes the development, use and evaluation of criminal justice software applications that are compatible with ultra-high-speed (UHS) networks. New UHS applications can provide real-time information and support to criminal justice and public safety practitioners in emergency situations. The first round of submissions in response to the Challenge are due February 14, 2014.
Private Sector Commitments:
The Weather Channel
The Weather Channel will publicize to its 100 million+ web visitors and TV viewers new standardized hash tags (#PowerLineDown #NoFuel and #GotFuel ) developed by the White House, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Department of Energy to enable citizens to report important emergency information, such as downed power lines or whether a gas station has fuel or not, across social media platforms during disasters. The Weather Channel is also developing an app to help families be prepared for natural disasters and extreme weather events. The app will focus on hyper local weather events and use both open government and proprietary data including National Weather Service alerts, precipitation proximity alerts, and lightning data.
TaskRabbit Disaster Recovery Assistance Program
TaskRabbit is a platformthat allows users to post small job offers to a community of those willing to pick up a task in exchange for payment. The company, which includes a network of over 20,000 vetted workers across the country, is announcing that it will provide a dedicated portal for specific recovery efforts during times of crisis, such as distributing food. The portal can serve as an interface for relief organizations to request help during a disaster and connect with high-skilled workers that are willing to volunteer their time. As part of this announcement, TaskRabbit will include a feature that allows workers to pledge their time as volunteers for relief organizations. TaskRabbit will not charge any fees for facilitating these connections.
Geofeedia, a location-based social media monitoring service, is announcing a free version of its service for first responders, disaster survivors, utility companies, and local, state and Federal governments to use during a disaster to identify the location of downed power lines and gas stations with fuel through tweets and posting of photos. The service will allow first responders to access real-time intelligence about disaster-impacted areas and improve situational awareness.
Crowdtilt, an online crowdfunding platform, has found that one of the most impactful ways to use crowdfunding in post-disaster scenarios is to help prevent displacement of local businesses. In the event of a disaster, Crowdtilt will empower business owners to fundraise on a rapid timeline and amplify their stories to help prevent displacement. Crowdtilt will also present a preview for the crowdfunding platform it is developing for small businesses affected by disasters.
Getaround is a car sharing platform that allows users to find, rent, and access vehicles in their neighborhood using their mobile device. Getaround is committing to help get people and supplies out of harms way during disasters by communicating instructions to its users, as advised by authorities, so that its customers know how to help or get help; notifying all vehicle owners via email and SMS to encourage them to make their cars available at discounted rates; and waiving its commission fee during the recovery.
Safety Data in Action: Company Case Studies:
Keychain Logistics is a business that directly connects companies looking to ship products with independent semi-truck owners and operators. Keychain uses freely available data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation to verify that drivers are qualified, to ensure drivers have appropriate insurance coverage and equipment, and to match drivers to shipments with specific needs—such as checking for drivers that are licensed to provide transportation services for hazardous materials. Keychain was started at Y Combinator, a Silicon Valley accelerator, and has grown from a company of one employee to nine in just over 18-months and expects to double in size by the end of 2014
BeSharp is an application developed through a White House Safety Datajam that measures police officer fatigue through a wrist monitor and pushes text message warnings as the officer becomes potentially impaired by fatigue while on duty. The app aims to improve safety and medical conditions, as well as provide objective data about officers’ fatigue-related impairment in the field.
Senior Communications Advisor and Web Editor
The White House | Office of Science & Technology Policy