2021 National Day of Civic Hacking

Reimagining 911

Saturday, September 18, 2021 / Virtual Event


Join us for the 9th annual National Day of Civic Hacking

Be a part of a day of collective action to reimagine the 911 emergency response system to be truly human-centered.

Register now

What would a human-centered approach to emergency response look like?

Nearly everyone in the US has heard of 911. It is one of the most ubiquitous government services and one of the main ways that people interact with the government when they have an urgent need. The 911 system facilitates emergency response to hundreds of millions of calls each year—but by design or default, the system initiates an armed law enforcement response whether that’s what a situation calls for or not. We’ve seen over and over again that an armed law enforcement response is not a one-size-fits-all solution. What if we could transform the way our government provides emergency response services?  There is an important opportunity here, but very little is understood about the system as a whole and its levers for change.

That’s where we can help.  The theme for this year’s National Day of Civic Hacking is Reimagining 911. The Code for America community is partnering with Transform 911 to evaluate how emergency response systems work around the country. On Saturday, September 18, we’ll come together to participate in open data, research, and design thinking actions in order to reimagine the 911 emergency response system to be truly human-centered.

About The Event

Since 2013, National Day of Civic Hacking has served as a day of action that brings together civic leaders, public servants, designers, coders, and data scientists to partner with local communities and tackle some of our toughest challenges.

On September 18, Code for America will host our 9th annual National Day of Civic Hacking, including a kick-off event with experts in the field, coordinated action-teams dedicated to data, analysis, research, design and more, a lunch-and-learn, and closing remarks. We welcome people of all skill levels, and new and returning volunteers alike. There will be actions available to leverage different skills, technical and nontechnical.

Frequently Asked Questions

About Transform911

Transform911 is an initiative of the University of Chicago Health Lab.

The University of Chicago Health Lab seeks to partner with civic and community leaders to identify, rigorously evaluate and scale programs and policies that improve health outcomes and address systemic barriers to achieving health equity.

Transform911 is evaluating the evidence base surrounding the current 911 system, working to identify its limitations, and pursuing opportunities to innovate alternative approaches.

About Code for America's Criminal Justice Work

Code for America works with government and alongside communities to implement policies that decarcerate, decriminalize, and reinvest in communities by removing barriers to employment, housing, health, education, and more. We believe that we can shrink the role and reach of the criminal legal system by transforming how the government delivers services to the people impacted by the system, and this year’s theme of “Reimagine 911” is a first step on the path toward creating a human-centered emergency response system.

Take Action to Reimagine 911

We’re organizing a few types of actions that volunteers can participate in to help Reimagine 911.

Open Data, Data Analysis, System Mapping

Volunteers from across the country will help to develop a national 911 Open Data Scorecard by (1) identifying cities with open or publicly available 911 data; (2) mapping steps required to get data from cities who only make data available upon request; and (3) determining whether information exists for the metrics of interest within the data set. This action presents an opportunity to help develop a nationwide survey of the availability of 911 data. Additionally, volunteers will have the opportunity to pursue data analysis/visualization and system mapping for available data.

Design Thinking & Prototyping

Work with your group (we’ll pair you with one if needed) to think through problem statements concerning 911 emergency response. Groups can share their thinking and ideas at the end of the day, and we will make these results available for partners and local jurisdictions looking for solutions in their communities. You can also share your findings with local partners who may find this information useful.

Interested in completing one of these actions?

Register now


12 pm ET/ 9 am PT
Kick-Off Event
(hosted by Code for America)

1 p.m. ET/ 10 a.m. PT
Working Time
Participants begin working on chosen action(s). You can either work independently or with your local Brigade, community group, or assigned volunteer group’s National Day of Civic Hacking event.

3:30 pm ET/ 12:30 pm PT
Afternoon Break with Optional Lunch-and-Learn

4 pm ET/ 1 pm PT
Working Time Continues

6 pm ET/ 3 pm PT
Closing Remarks
(hosted by Code for America)

*Schedule subject to change

How to Participate

Register for the Code for America National Day of Civic Hacking 2021 Event. Then, feel free to join the Code for America Slack and plug into the #ndoch2021 channel for updates.

On National Day of Civic Hacking, we will provide step-by-step guidance for participating in your chosen action(s). You will need a laptop, wifi/internet access, and should be prepared to use Zoom, Slack, and Google Docs/Google Sheets; we suggest downloading these applications and becoming familiar with them ahead of time.

Interested in organizing an event with your local Brigade or a team of people locally for National Day of Civic Hacking? View this year’s toolkit to learn how you can start preparing for your event.

Access the toolkit

Questions? Reach out at brigade-info@codeforamerica.org

Frequently Asked Questions

Over the years, common themes have emerged from our Brigade Network on challenges they face locally and opportunities for addressing those challenges. Brigade leaders identified various pain points in addressing these challenges. One Brigade leader commented, “We’re not as powerful as our numbers should make us. We have talented people; we need to give them ways to channel that but we don’t know how to do it.”

The National Advisory Council (NAC), an elected group of 10 Brigade members, the Network team, and Brigade leaders from across the country came together—in person and online—to strategize around these challenges and opportunities to support our diverse and growing network across the county. National Day of Civic Hacking emerged as a clear opportunity to come together as a network, focus our efforts, provide dedicated resources to volunteers, amplify actions across the country, and leverage the collective power of all of Code for America’s resources.

Anyone who wants to volunteer is welcome to participate. While “hacking” is in the name, you don’t need to know how to code to contribute. We welcome people with all kinds of backgrounds—like marketing, community organizing, logistics, engineering, and project management skills, just to name a few!

Brigade leaders are generally involved in the planning and execution of their Brigade’s local National Day of Civic Hacking event. This may include securing event space, gathering volunteers, promoting the event, and ensuring all resources have been received for the event. For details needed to plan this year’s event, please review the 2021 National Day of Civic Hacking Toolkit.

Brigades are welcome to participate in as many actions as they’d like! Depending on the interest and capacity of your Brigade, you may determine that certain actions, or all, are best suited for your local National Day of Civic Hacking activities.

Although our Brigade Network will be tackling collective actions for National Day of Civic Hacking, it is perfectly acceptable to use this day of action to focus on the initiatives most important or relevant to your Brigade and/or community. Regardless of activities, we invite all Brigades to participate in the kick-off, mid-day, and closing events hosted by Code for America!

Yes! We will provide step-by-step guidance on the day-off for participating in the action of your choice (open data, data analysis, system mapping, and prototyping). For some actions, you may be paired with a small team. If you prefer to work independently, that’s fine too! We’ll set you up.

The post-event Reimagine 911 Action Team, is a group of volunteers who have participated in National Day of Civic Hacking and are interested in continuing the work started on the day. This team will continue beyond National Day of Civic Hacking and will require 1-3 hrs/week of volunteer time If you are interested in joining the post-event team, express your interest via the registration form or contact brigade-info@codeforamerica.org.

We ask that you adhere to the following guidelines:

  • The safety of the event attendees and their community always come first.
  • In-person events should only be held if it aligns with current state and/or local guidelines where the event is being held.

As you plan your in person event, make sure you maintain best safety practices such as:

  • Mask wearing
  • Contact tracing
  • Hand washing/sanitizer available
  • Ability to limit group sizes based on space available

On the event registration page, include guidelines for best safety practices and ask people to please stay home if they have any COVID-19 like symptoms or if they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.

At the beginning of the event, remind attendees what is expected of them to be able to maintain best safety practices.

Venue & Technology Suggestions

  • It is recommended that Brigades hosting in-person National Day of Civic Hacking events leverage a space with open areas that can accommodate group collaboration and appropriate distancing.
  • AV equipment such as a projector and speakers should be present to display Code for America content such as the opening keynote and closing remarks for attendees.
    • A dedicated laptop for these purposes is highly recommended.
  • For groups hosting hybrid events, it is recommended that there be specific Zoom/teleconference links for remote attendees to join for any Brigade-specific remarks, activities, and to collaborate with specific action area team(s). For example, if five volunteers with be meeting in-person, but two are remote, have a specific teleconference link for the remote attendees to join, while the in-person attendees collaborate with them via one laptop/screen—it is not necessary for all in-person attendees to be on the teleconference link if there is a common laptop.

For organizers:

  • Provide an agenda.
    • Decide if you would like to meet prior to the Code for America Kick-Off or after
  • Review Code for America’s Code of Conduct.
  • Complete introduction early.
  • Recruit multiple co-hosts to assist.
  • Develop a virtual collaboration plan (Google Docs, GitHub, etc.).

For attendees:

  • Download any necessary applications in advance (Zoom, Github, etc.).
  • Follow best practices for virtual meetings:
    • Video is encouraged.
    • Mute your mic when you are not speaking.
    • Use earbuds/headphones to limit background noise.
    • Leverage the chat feature to communicate at any time.
  • Ensure you have received all necessary guidance needed to participate in both the portions host by Code for America and your respective Brigade or volunteer group.

What is the recommended setup?

At this time, what we’ve found works best for Brigade meetings is a combined approach of:

  1. A Zoom meeting with pre-registration for a full-group orientation, and
  2. Slack video calls for breakout teams (this requires a Slack Standard plan).

For Brigades that don’t have a Slack Standard plan, we recommend using Google Meet or Google Hangouts. There is also a feature of Zoom called “Breakout Rooms” that will work in a pinch, although there are some rough edges to it that make it fit the use-case a bit less well.

How do I run a virtual event?

  1. Get set up with a Zoom call and attach the details to your registration link/confirmation.
  2. Get people to register.
    • You’ll want to put the registration link visibly on your Meetup page, email it out, Slack it into the wind, etc.
  1. Before your event begins:
    • Make sure you have the shared login for the Zoom account that is hosting your webinar. It should have been emailed to the person who created the webinar if using a link from Code for America.
    • You will also want to figure out what you are doing for project breakout rooms. Can you use Slack (are you on the Standard plan?) Otherwise, you’ll want to come up with a contingency plan using Google Meet, or another conferencing tool.
    • Remember, Code for America offers G Suite for Brigades so you should be able to use Google Meet as a worst-case. (If you aren’t already set up with G Suite for your Brigade, make sure to give us a few days lead time to get you set up—don’t wait until the last minute!)
    • If you create a bunch of separate breakout room links, you will want to create a doc/slide that has them all listed so attendees can find them after the opening session is over! Check out Code for Boston’s projects page as an example.
  1. Starting your National Day of Civic Hacking event:
    • Sign in with the Zoom client to claim the “Host” controls over the meeting. We recommend following these steps during the beginning of your NDoCH event:
      • Appoint any other co-captains or lead volunteers as “Co-Hosts”
      • Record the meeting, if you so choose and have consent
      • Be sure to include all necessary information and links for anyone who may get disconnected or confused

Code of Conduct

We believe that anyone attending a Code for America event or participating in our online community should feel safe and be free from harassment.

As such, we expect all attendees to adhere to the Code of Conduct at every Code for America or Code for America Brigade event.

View the Code of Conduct