A Massive Evacuation Hackathon


*** To participate in this event you must register on Evenbrite at https://escapefromnewyork.eventbrite.com. ***

Evacuating people from an area threatened or struck by a natural or manmade disaster is extraordinarily hard. The challenge is compounded when the number of people to be evacuated is large and communication and transportation infrastructure is damaged or inoperable. Hurricanes like Sandy or Katrina, earthquakes, tsunamis, terrorist attacks, war—when natural or manmade disasters occur, the US military plays a vital role in helping people reach safety.

After 9/11, hundreds of thousands of people trapped south of the Twin Towers had to be evacuated on foot over bridges and by boat with support from the National Guard and Coast Guard. This revealed the extraordinary challenges of coordinating and executing massive evacuations.

Despite routine civilian and military planning and exercises for massive evacuations, significant challenges remain for first-responders, emergency managers, and the military. To address these challenges, MD5, in collaboration with the New York National Guard, Columbia University, and New York University, will host Escape from New York 2019 at Galvanize in downtown New York, NY from February 22 – 24, 2019.

We’re looking for developers, designers, and hackers from the academic, military, and commercial start-up communities to come together for a weekend to explore non-traditional, innovative methods to save lives during a natural or man-made disaster.

This hackathon will focus on developing technical solutions to support the following:

  • Communicate – Current alert and notification systems provide one-way communication of general information. How can we target communications to provide people with relevant and compelling information specific to their location, status, or other factors? How can we interact with the disabled, elderly, homeless, and other at-risk populations? How can we best support those who refuse to evacuate?
  • Track – Real-time, end-to-end tracking of evacuees is critical to managing evacuation efforts. What tools can we develop to better account for individuals and families; locate individuals who are unaccounted for; and confirm the identity and track the status of people throughout the evacuation process? How do we connect families with relatives impacted by the disaster? How can we track patients throughout the process, ensuring access to medical records and a continuum of care?
  • Transport – Managing the movement of people out of the disaster area while simultaneously coordinating the in-flow of supplies and equipment (both bulk commodities and donations) is challenging under dynamic conditions where critical infrastructure may be pushed beyond capacity or damaged. What tools can we develop to better select collection and staging areas; coordinate and schedule transportation modes and routes; and manage the flow of personnel and resources? How can we leverage analytics and data sources (e.g., drones, social media, geographic information systems) to optimize operations and manage risk?


Participation is open to all individuals over 18 years in age. Teams are welcome, but each member needs to register as an individual. All participants must have registered at https://escapefromnewyork.eventbrite.com

Winning teams receive the opportunity for funding to further develop or demonstrate solution. Any recipient of funding must have the ability to legally perform work in the United States of America.


Teams will submit at minimum a PowerPoint presentation of their solution to DevPost by 9:30 am on Sunday, February 24, 2019.

Teams will also have an assigned table in the hackathon space in Galvanize to display their solution, which must be set up by 9:30 am on Sunday, February 24, 2019.

Hackathon Sponsors


$45,000 in prizes

Up to $15,000 contract for follow-on development (3)

Up to 3 teams will be selected to receive a follow-on contract for up to $15,000 each to develop their solutions.

Devpost Achievements

Submitting to this hackathon could earn you:

How to enter

This is an in-person event to be held at the Galvanize in downtown New York City, NY. To participate, you must be registered on Evenbrite at https://escapefromnewyork.eventbrite.com.

To be considered for judging, all concepts need to be submitted on Devpost along with identifying your team members.

Participant information is available here.


Michel Natali

Michel Natali
Brigadier General, NY National Guard

Richard Witten

Richard Witten
Managing Director, Columbia Entrepreneurship, Columbia University

Alby Bocanegra

Alby Bocanegra

Aaron Dean

Aaron Dean
Brigadier General, DC National Guard

Robert Mitchell

Robert Mitchell
Colonel, NY National Guard

Jesse Levin

Jesse Levin

JB Cuartas

JB Cuartas
Chief, Operational Planning, FEMA

Debra Laefer

Debra Laefer
Director of Citizen Science, CUSP, NYU

Sergio Rodriguera

Sergio Rodriguera

Alex Jaimes

Alex Jaimes
SVP, Dataminr

Judging Criteria

  • Judging Procedures
    The first round of judging will be science fair style at 9:30 am on Sunday. Five Finalists will be selected based on categories 1-3 below to make final presentations at 1 pm on Sunday. Up to three winners will be selected based on categories 1-4 below.
  • 1. Impact (30%)
  • Impact - Problem Statement
    How well defined is the problem scope?
  • Impact - Problem Alignment
    How well does the Problem Statement align with the Challenge Statement and focus areas?
  • Impact - Need, DoD
    How significant is the DoD need for the proposed solution? What benefit does it provide over the status quo?
  • Impact - Need, Private Sector
    How significant is the private sector need for the proposed solution? What benefit does it provide over the status quo?
  • 2. Team Membership and Execution (20%)
  • Team Membership and Execution - Diversity of Team Members
    How diverse are the team members’ experience levels, skills, and backgrounds?
  • Team Membership and Execution - Hack Journey
    How well did you incorporate new information learned at the hackathon into your solution? How did you use this information to iterate to improved approaches?
  • Team Membership and Execution - Customer Engagement
    How well did you engage with hackathon mentors and subject matter experts?
  • 3. Product/Service (30%)
  • Product/Service - Description
    How well do you describe your product or service, its beneficial features, and how it is different?
  • Product/Service - Applicability
    How well does the proposed solution work in anticipated operating conditions?
  • Product/Service - Practicality for Stakeholders
    How practical is the solution for all stakeholders (not just end users)?
  • Product/Service - Resources required at deployment
    How reasonable are the resources required to deploy the proposed solution?
  • Product/Service - Technical Feasibility
    How credible is the scientific basis for the proposed solution?
  • Product/Service - Innovative approach
    Is your approach based on out-of-date technologies or ground-breaking ideas?
  • 4. Go-Forward Plan (20%)
  • Go-Forward Plan - Award potential
    What additional benefit could your solution provide with a $15K award?
  • Go-Forward Plan - Post-award investment potential
    What additional benefit could your solution provide with investment beyond the $15K award?
  • Go-Forward Plan - Startup potential
    Is there opportunity for startup company formation?
  • Go-Forward Plan - Future technical risk narrative
    How well are risks analyzed and addressed, and how well are weaknesses mitigated?

Questions? Email the hackathon manager

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