New tool helps disaster victims find shelter from the storm

The Federal Emergency Management Agency puts out information on hurricane shelters every 20 minutes during natural disasters through its application programming interface. Socrata decided during Hurricane Irma to input the information into its geographic information system for a new web-based platform called Find Shelter.

This week, capabilities were added to the platform to include Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands as a result of Hurricanes Jose and Maria. More work is planned to expand the platform to include shelters from other natural disasters such as forest fires, tornadoes and flooding in the near future.

“Find Shelter is designed to be a real-time estimation on where people can go for safety during emergencies,” Jaime Sanchez, Socrata software engineer, told GCN. “We are updating the platforms with things like occupancy and how many people shelters can hold, in addition to GPS coordination to tell you where the closest shelters are to your location.”

Users also are able to get alerts to find out when shelters have been filled or new locations are opening.

Socrata updates the app every hour, so the lag time on the latest FEMA data is minimal. As word of mouth grows around the Find Shelter platform, Socrata engineers also are interested in adding more capabilities to help impacted residents find hospitals and identify flood zones.

While FEMA is not a Socrata customer, other cities and states such as Austin, Baltimore and Iowa that use the open data company’s services have incorporated floodplain data from FEMA into their portals.

About the Author

Sara Friedman is a reporter/producer for GCN, covering cloud, cybersecurity and a wide range of other public-sector IT topics.

Before joining GCN, Friedman was a reporter for Gambling Compliance, where she covered state issues related to casinos, lotteries and fantasy sports. She has also written for Communications Daily and Washington Internet Daily on state telecom and cloud computing. Friedman is a graduate of Ithaca College, where she studied journalism, politics and international communications.

Friedman can be contacted at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @SaraEFriedman.

Click here for previous articles by Friedman.


  • Records management: Look beyond the NARA mandates

    Records management is about to get harder

    New collaboration technologies ramped up in the wake of the pandemic have introduced some new challenges.

  • puzzled employee (fizkes/

    Phish Scale: Weighing the threat from email scammers

    The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Phish Scale quantifies characteristics of phishing emails that are likely to trick users.

Stay Connected

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.