When disaster strikes, it is our human instinct to help one another. What if we could help before and after, reducing hardship and suffering, by pressing just a few keys on our smartphones?
Adam Huminsky, a businessman from North Carolina, has built the smartphone app Harmany to ease evacuation during disaster events like hurricanes, wildfires, and airport closures.
“We believe that crisis can bring out the best in people,” Huminsky told the Capital Weather Gang. “When the floodwaters are rising, no one stands on shore and asks the overwhelmed whom they voted for. They pull the person to safety.”
Huminsky wants to pull people to safety with a new app that’s best described as the “Uber for disasters” — Harmany.
Often when people are told to evacuate, they don’t know where to go. They don’t have family around and hotels are expensive. Before Hurricane Irma slammed into Florida, many evacuees were forced to scramble as many shelters quickly reached capacity. The Bradenton Herald reports Southwest Florida has insufficient shelter capacity headed into this hurricane season.
Huminsky says Harmany will connect those who can provide shelter with those who need shelter, quickly.
In the interview below, Huminsky, co-founder Brian Hillinski and partner David Paul discuss the app and their efforts to foster change.
How confident are you that people will open their doors to total strangers and serve as hosts?
We are quite confident. People are already doing this all over, on an ad hoc basis. We met a man in Houston who, during the Harvey floods, drove to the flooded areas with his pickup truck, rescued three families from their cars on the side of the road and took them home for a few days until the waters receded.
We met another person who purchased a camper trailer for his yard specifically to house some evacuees during the California wildfires.
People have an instinct to help others in moments such as these. What we are trying to do is organize it and make it as safe as possible, on a large scale.
What exactly is expected of being a host?
We expect hosts to provide a safe and secure place to stay for just a few days, until other options become available. A place to sleep, share meals and fellowship while their guests’ lives are turned upside-down.
During an evacuation, hotels tend to become very expensive, if available at all, while public shelters get very crowded. Any FEMA/relief resources are often a week or more away from being fully deployed. None of these options are really optimal, nor is expecting people to sleep in their cars.
We hope hosts will fairly represent their accommodations and know that they are changing the entire evacuation experience for someone with their kindness. Lastly, we hope the hosts will come away from the experience with lifelong friends.
Are there certain requirements or verifications for becoming a host?
In the first version, hosts will verify their email address, phone number, social media profile and upload their government ID.
In version 2, we will be implementing a background check API that will verify both hosts and evacuees. We believe this will give people enough information to make informed decisions about where they will be staying, or who will be staying with them.
And of course, hosts can deny any request that does not meet their own personal standards of comfort.
How can readers get involved/help in other ways besides serving as hosts?
Being willing to host is key! Having people sleep in a gas station parking lot is not a viable option.
Other than that, first, please consider giving to our crowdfund for initial start-ups. We have a lot more planned for this app and we are confident that it will make life better for a lot of people, but we cannot do it alone.
Second, please share the app, the link to the website and the idea with as many people as possible. This concept will continue to gain acceptance as more people are exposed to it. We see this as a logical extension of the share economy. Ten years ago, it would have been unthinkable to hop into a stranger’s car. Now, it is the norm. We want to normalize citizen involvement in emergency situations, in a safe and organized manner. We need everyone’s help to do that!
What else can Harmany do?
Harmany has applications beyond just hurricanes. There is no place where people won’t eventually find themselves in need of a place to stay, at a moment’s notice.
What happens when a major airport closes for 24 hours and all the hotels are booked up? We believe this is a better solution than sleeping on a concourse floor.