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May 19

[ARCHIVED] Using Technology to Build Resilient Communities

The original item was published from March 31, 2017 11:40 AM to May 19, 2022 10:20 AM

The City of Norfolk is taking advantage of a changing environment to build resilience by designing the coastal community of the future, connecting communities, and strengthening neighborhoods. The use of application programs, more commonly known as apps, is playing a significant role in helping the city reach these resilience goals. Here are some of those apps.



Storm.pngLaunched on July 2016, the Storm mobile app uses crowdsourcing to identify events that might be going on during a storm. Users can report storm damage in their neighborhood by entering an address, block, or intersection, choosing the observed event, and describing the event in a comments box. During a major storm, within 30 minutes an official will review that data and post it on a map for users to see. The city hopes to increase response time by becoming more aware of what’s going on during events, and by allowing residents to be part of the process. Developers hope to include photo uploading capabilities and notifications to users when issues have been fixed in future versions of the app, which is currently the only of its kind in the region.


RYR app.pngThe Retain Your Rain app provides parcel-level information to Norfolk’s residents on the amount of rainwater runoff they could capture by installing rain retention infrastructure at their homes. Users can enter any address to find out how many bath tubs could be filled with water if that parcel were to capture anywhere from 0.5-3 inches of rain. The app can also provide the same information for an entire area, allowing users to find out how much water entire blocks and neighborhoods could capture. This provides residents with useful information when trying to decide which green infrastructure methods would make the most difference at their home.

Described by its developers as the “Uber for giving food,” the We Feed Norfolk mobile app allows users to leave food on their front door to be picked up by volunteers and be taken to the local food bank, with the simple click of a “Pick Up” button. Users can also keep track of the rewards points they earn every time they donate, which are redeemable for merchandise at We Feed Norfolk events. Norfolk’s endorsement of the app and partnerships with higher-education and faith-based institutions has resulted in the expansion of the coverage area to 10,000 households, and collection of over 8,500 pounds of food.

Other apps aligned with Norfolk’s goals include:

RENTREADY NORFOLK: Still in its developing stages, this app shows properties available for rent around Norfolk and allows users to rate their landlords and report any housing code violations. This app is part of the wider Rent Ready program, designed to increase the number of viable residential rentals in the City of Norfolk. 
TITAN: Developed in 2014, this app allows city employees and residents to use water level data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to track inundation depths over land from rising tides and sea levels. 
SEA LEVEL RISE: This app from Wetlands Watch allows approved users who have undergone basic training to report flooding. The information is available for anyone to view. Developers hope that the app will be able to predict flooding in future versions.

Organizations around the country are taking note of the important role of apps in reaching environmental resilience goals in particular. AeroTech, Concursive, Wetlands Watch, and GOV2COM began a sea level rise app challenge, which rewarded the most “innovative, useful, and economically sustainable” app concept to track the effects of coastal flooding.

While the use of apps is not new for some municipalities, the City of Norfolk is using this technology to become more connected to its residents and to also connect them to one another-- a true innovation in an era of decreasing interaction.