Riz Zaki

Project Dawn

Hurricane Preparation & Response

CHI Student Competition 2018 Finalist

CHI Student Competition 2018 Finalist


Timeline: September -November 2017

Role: Research Manager, VUI Designer

Skills: Field Research, Voice user interface design, Co-creation

Team: SCAD UX Design Studio I


For UX Design Studio I+II we tackled the many facets of hurricane experiences  through research, technology and design. Our proposed solution is a vision of  2022 when drones and artificial intelligence can provide the public and authorities rich and relevant information and analysis.

The final presentation for this project was presented to a team of designers at Google and will be presented to FEMA later this year. 




Improve people’s experience in a natural disaster through an innovative UX design solution.


Problem Spaces



The general public is subject to confusing, misleading and ambiguous information. This leads to mistrust and negatively affected decisions.


Data and local assessment is essential to maintain governmental situational awareness and recovery.


Hyperlocal & personalized

Understanding forecasts and what your next steps should be in the event of a hurricane is often tough.

How might we provide more accurate and trustworthy information in an evolving situation?

Augmented disaster

There are gaps in their damage assessment collection for Federal level funding.

How might we lessen the time it takes for cities to receive federal aid for damages after a hurricane?

Improved evacuation

Evacuating is sometimes unethical + dangerous. Often  matters of shelter or place.

How might we improve lower income access to hurricane evacuation?


Visiting CEMA

Early in the process we visited the Catham Emergency Management Agency (CEMA). We wanted to learn more about CEMAs functions, challenges and goals. As the research manager I facilitated interview planning and protocols. Our team received a tour of CEMA facilities and the various staff, technologies and emergency protocols.

From these visits we learned:

  1. CEMA is the nerve center of the county's emergency response system. It coordinates with staff from local, state and federal agencies to coordinate, manage and respond to county emergencies.

  2. The Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is a digital platform that connects local agencies such as Police, Fire, EMS and Public Health. The end goal of this EOC is to maintain situational awareness and create a common operating picture. This process reduces mixed signals and keeps city, county and federal stakeholders on the same page.

  3. CEMA maintains staff 24/7 to answer public questions and correct rumors through phone and social media. During Irma this had a 6 min wait time. Correcting false information took up a large portion the communication staff’s time.

Interview protocols

Interview protocols


Visiting WTOC

We also visited a major local Savannah news station, WTOC to learn more about how emergency and weather information is communicated.
Some of our questions were:

-How is information disseminated to the public?
-What are the major challenges for local news?
-How has this changed over time?

We learned:

  1. Local news is broadcast to several zip codes throughout the county. The information they provide cannot be tailored for vastly different needs, situations and demographics.

  2. However, there are positives to broadcasting. Since the internet, culture is narrowcast and the public no longer receives a single trusted source of information. People enter digital echo-zones of false information.

  3. Communicating uncertainty is extremely difficult to accomplish with trust. If newscasters warn people to evacuate and the storm misses them, they are less likely to trust the news in the future.



We also interviewed local citizens to better understand their emergency experiences. We wanted to know:

-How does the public receive, understand and communicate critical weather related information?
-How is specific weather and emergency information such as uncertainty understood by the public? What kind of language is used and what misconceptions do people hold?
-How might we improve hurricane information and experiences?

We learned:

  1. There are serious misunderstandings from graphics and language used by local news media and the National Weather Service. These misconceptions were consistent among the community.

  2. Most people do not agree on a single trusted source of information. Most learn through word-of-mouth or social media.

  3. Critically, news sources do not give the public concrete and relevant actions for people to perform in anticipation for a weather emergency.


Information Ambiguity + Overload

  1. The general public is subject to confusing, misleading and ambiguous information. This leads to mistrust and negatively affected decisions.

  2. Uncertainty and weather complexity is inherently difficult to communicate. News meteorologists who speak in a way most people can easily understand.

  3. Forecast advice is too generalised. People have very different needs based on their exact address, elevation and family/ housing situation.


"I don’t know how this forecast applies to me.”
—Christy from Memphis TN

“Ada Monzon is like our community hero, she has the power to clean out a walmart.”

—Yaz from San Juan




Current state

The cone of uncertainty is an especially problematic visualization tool. Studies have demonstrated that many users associate the cone size with the size of the hurricane itself and the centerline is often given undue significance.

An increasing number of users utilize social media for news where misinformation and rumors propagate uninhibited. Generally, this information experience leads to mistrust and poor decisions.

Many experts believe Hurricane Charley's 16 billion in damage was caused in part through misunderstanding the cone of uncertainty.   

hurricane igor.gif



Case Study

Communicating uncertainty with Kayak and Hopper

Kayak and Hopper are flight booking services that explain price forecasts in an easy to understand way. 

Kayak establishes trust through authority by clarifying how it gets it predictions and warns that it might not be 100% accurate.

Hopper provides alerts and detailed information about price changes and gives actionable information.  This allows  users to make better informed decisisons.  

Artboard 2.png

What if the public has a source for situational awareness and a common operating picture?


Concept timeline


Meet the Rowens...

 A family of four located in Savannah Ga. They live in a single family wood house in Savannah's historic district less than a mile from the Savannah River. 

"We just started a family and bought this house, a hurricane would be a really big deal"

The Rowens are transplants from the midwest and don't have extensive experience with hurricanes or a support network of family on the East Coast.

The Rowens depend on forecasts provided by local news stations and the NWS. As they have no experience with hurricanes, the Rowens don't know what to do with the information they are given. 





Information experience

Dawn congregates information from governments, weather models and users to create an information ecosystem where users receive information that is relevant, accurate and easy to understand. 

Authorities can also target information to certain users based on demographic data. 





A conversational user interface for hurricanes

Dawn eliminates ambiguity in forecasting by using natural language to explain the latest news and explain what it means. Users don't just receive weather alerts, they receive advisories and actionable items.



Citizen reporting 

Unlike traditional models, Dawn users contribute information to authorities and other users.
For example, after the storm user indicate that they have returned and other users can see what percentage of people in their area have returned. 

Evacuation Plans             Damage 

Road blockages                Power outages

Transportation                 Traffic 


are you home.png
Keep youed  updat.png

Targeted alerts

Authorities can target demographic specific alerts and information. For example, the Rowens live in Savannah's historic district, Georgia Power can indicate when power has returned to their neighborhood while they are away. 


Clearer forecast visualizations 

The cone of uncertainty and other hurricane forecast tools are poorly understood by the public. They are often misunderstood creating mistrust within the public. Dawn shows the probability for hurricane force winds color gradient to show risk inside and outside the cone of uncertainty. Users are notified of the kind of damage is possible for their property based on the projections.  

iPad weather.gif

Community Page

Many depend on community news meteorologists to explain hurricane events. But social media is increasingly utilized for hurricane news, opening the way for misinformation and rumors. Dawn offers a platform to qualified professionals to reach people in the community. Users can be sure all community information is verified and trustworthy. 




Interview Photos

The presentation