San Francisco to release game-based disaster preparedness app 


Riffing on social gaming mobile applications such as FarmVille and FourSquare, San Francisco wants to reward you for disaster preparation – not with money, but with digital satisfaction.

Employing a motivational method known to tech industry aficionados as “gamification,” The City’s Department of Emergency Management said a new app called SF Heroes will be available for the iPhone on Friday, with an Android version coming in spring. The game allows users to connect with friends and complete tasks through games and in real life, earning them “badges” that rank them against online counterparts.

The application has connectivity with Twitter and Facebook to keep online friends apprised of various milestones in personal disaster preparedness, such as attending and checking in at public events and doing well on disaster quizzes. The app also allows access to a real-life emergency map, plus the ability to create a disaster contact list and a tally of needed supplies.

Laura Adleman, a spokeswoman for the emergency department, said even if cell service and Internet access are unavailable in a disaster, users will still have access to stored map data, plus the phone and supply lists.

“This is going to be a great tool to be prepared in San Francisco,” Adleman said, adding that the department has been working with game developer CosmiCube and spent $25,000 to develop SF Heroes.

Adleman said she’s hoping the app has more success than previous attempts to encourage resident vigilance on earthquakes and other disasters.

“Traditional ad campaigns can cost up to $100,000 on Muni for a month or two,” Adleman said.

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Dan Schreiber

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