When an emergency situation happens near you, how do you hear about it?
Many times people go hours, days, or go without hearing about incidents that have occurred nearby. Whether it’s a mugging, a fire, or a shooting nearby, there aren’t any effective ways of notifying your local community, friends and family, and local police in real time.
We built Wildfire to solve this problem.
One night Fall 2015, Hriday was walking home when two individuals wearing ski masks and gloves popped out from behind some nearby bushes with the intent to mug him. After avoiding the incident, he immediately called the campus police and stayed for half an hour in order to alert other students walking home that way. He went home and posted a PSA on a UC Berkeley Facebook group to warn other students. The most surprising takeaway from that night was that 10–15 Cal students he had never met before messaged him and thanked him for alerting them, via the PSA post, so they could then find an alternative, safer path home that night.
Despite the hundreds who benefitted from Hriday’s post on Facebook, there were over 30,000 additional students who were completely unaware of what had happened that night, who may have had to walk home using that same path. Hriday quickly realized that restricted networks weren’t enough to alert others, and that there had to be a better, more effective way of spreading safety related information to those nearby.
In light of that incident, we built a new safety app, called Wildfire, with the hope that it not only would help students walk home safer at night, but that it would be beneficial in making communities safer.