Local students developed way to lessen chaos in disaster relief shelters


Cities and families across the country continue to rebuild after devastating hurricanes killed thousands of people in the fall of 2017. These storms serve as a sobering reminder of the importance of disaster preparation and September is National Preparedness month.

Right now, a group of students at the Medical College of Georgia have developed way to lessen the chaos in disaster relief shelters 

Med students Safia Siddiqui, Mike Mallow, Kyle Dymanus, Nathan Dillard and software developer Aaron White now hold multiple awards for the software they developed called DisasterMed. Recently, they won a $25,000 prize from the Southeast Startup Challenge Summit and put the money back into their new company.  

“When a disaster hits, people are forced to flee their home and they do it in a hurry.” Siddiqui points out shelters are often hectic and crowded. “That’s ideal for diseases to spread and chaos is ideal for you to not get the medications or equipment that you might need.”

Mallow says this disorganization problem is something they are trying to help solve.

“[We’re looking at how to track high risk symptoms in disaster relief shelters,” Mallow explains, “which currently now is all done on paper, which is very inefficient.”

Dymanus describes how this inefficiency slows down patient care.

“Right now, a paper form is filled out. A truck actually comes by shelter to shelter to pick up those forms and then they go to a pharmacy or whatever place to pick up that medication and bring it back,” Dymanus says.

Their software, DisasterMed, tracks evacuees’ medical needs electronically.

“That data is automatically being sent to the department of public health or whoever is tracking that information” Dymanus explains. “You can see—oh, this is needed at this shelter, let’s go ahead and send trucks out to that shelter to deliver that immediately.”

What happens when the internet is down? An issue that is likely in a violent storm.

“What we’ve done is created a device that will still transmit that information in real time, but using radio waves,” Dymanus says.

Siddiqui says DisasterMed will help evacuees in the present and has strong implications for future preparation also.

“You’re collecting that data as a government, as Red Cross, Department of Public Health so it allows to not just help people right now, but you’re allowing this data to be mined and searched in the future so you’re better prepared for disaster,” Siddiqui says.

Dillard tells NewsChannel 6 they plan to test their software in real life situations this hurricane season. The ultimate goal: to save lives.   

“We want to improve the health outcomes of people who are having to flee their homes during a disaster and potentially save some lives,” Dillard says.

These four students also run an incubator at MCG to help more start-up ideas come to life. The incubator is the first of its kind at the university. Their goal is to provide an entrepreneurial environment at Augusta University by connecting like-minded people who can benefit from the innovation of each other.

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