2021 National Day of Civic Hacking

Reimagining 911

Saturday, September 18, 2021 / Virtual Event

Registration is now closed.

Thank you for participating in the 9th annual National Day of Civic Hacking

We’re so glad you could be part of our collective action to reimagine the 911 emergency response system. We’d love to have you continue working with us by joining our post-event action team.

This year’s impact

Nearly 1,000 folks engaged with us to reimagine 911. Volunteers from 280 organizations and 48 Brigades logged 2,500 hours, resulting in:

384
Public Service Answering Points (PSAPs) reviewed
17
case studies developed
16
data analysis projects
9
prototype projects
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, data analysis, and prototyping 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 and activities that volunteers can participate in to help Reimagine 911.

Open Data

The first step in systemic change is understanding the system. Come help us find and evaluate data from 6,000 different 911 locations across the US.

Activity: 911 Data Discovery & Evaluation
The single most valuable action you can take today is helping us discover where the good data is—and where the data is missing.

Data Analysis

Draw connections between public 911 data and other datasets. Are there trends between low-income neighborhoods and 911 budget data? How about service calls across age demographics?

Activity #1: Data Queries The rubber meets the road when we investigate whether we can write SQL queries on publicly available data that answer our partner’s key questions.

Activity #2: Data Visualization Using off-the-shelf integrations such as Tableau or Plotly we will create graphs, dashboards, and visualizations that help surface insights from the 911 data.

Prototyping

Not all prototypes are experimental cars or pizza delivery apps—they can also be written documents and early mock-ups that help someone understand the potential of a really good idea, and provide the foundation for further exploration and ideation.

Activity #1: Alternative 911 Case Studies There are already dozens of 911-alternative programs in cities across the country. Help us document how they are helping their communities, and how they were able to get started.

Activity #2: Explore Grab-bag “How Might We” Statements We’ve uncovered a few questions that could use creative minds with a variety of skills. Please know that activity here will be largely self-directed, with prompts and light context provided by Code for America.

Schedule

12 pm ET/ 9 am PT
Kick-Off Event
Join us as a panel of leaders from Code for America, Transform911 and the Tucson Police Department discuss the current state of 911 emergency response, its impacts, and our community’s role in helping to imagine a truly human-centered emergency response system.

  • Amanda Renteria, Code for America, Chief Executive Officer (Opening Remarks)
  • Meredith Horowski, Code for America, Sr. Director, Brigade Network (Moderator)
  • Elena Fortuna, Code for America, Client Success Director, Former Social Worker and Children’s Mental Health Clinician
  • Rebecca Neusteter, Transform911, Principal Investigator/Executive Director, UChicago Health Lab
  • Chad Kasmar, Deputy Chief of Police, currently the Public Safety Communications Interim Director
  • Ceasar McDowell, Professor of Civic Design and Associate Head of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning

1 p.m. ET/ 10 a.m. PT
Working Time
Participants have the option to work independently, with the larger community group or with their local Brigade on their preferred action(s). Onboarding to the specific actions and guidance will be provided for all actions and participation types.

3:30 pm ET/ 12:30 pm PT
Afternoon Break with Optional Lunch-and-Learn
Conversation discussing civic tech and personal experiences as members of the Code for America Brigade Network.

4 pm ET/ 1 pm PT
Working Time Continues

6 pm ET/ 3 pm PT
Closing Remarks

*Schedule subject to change

How to Participate

In the spirit of collective action (and to reduce weekend Zoom fatigue!) we will be hosting this year’s National Day of Civic Hacking on Gather, where participants will have the opportunity to virtually mingle and make connections. Prepare yourself for the day by reading our Gather Guidelines document or view the Gather Guidelines video. For more information about the platform, please see our FAQs.

On the day of the event, we will provide step-by-step guidance for participating in your chosen action(s). You will need a laptop, Wi-Fi/internet access, and should be prepared to use Gather, 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

Meet Your National Day of Civic Hacking Committee

Headshot photo of Tyrek Shepard
Tyrek Shepard

Code for Atlanta (Atlanta, Georgia)
National Advisory Council 2020-22

Headshot photo of Micah Mutrux
Micah Mutrux

Code for BTV (Burlington, Vermont)
National Advisory Council 2021-23

Headshot photo of Mohith Rao
Mohith Rao

OpenSTL (St. Louis, Missouri)
National Advisory Council 2021-23

Headshot photo of Diana Varnes
Diana Varnes

Code for Tulsa (Tulsa, Oklahoma)

Headshot photo of Nick Floersch
Nick Floersch

Code for BTV (Burlington, Vermont)

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!

You’ll be given step-by-step guidance for each of these actions. Open Data is the most accessible action for any skillset—no previous technical skill required. By contrast, prototyping will be the most self-directed action. All work will inform and support our partnership with Transform911, dedicated to reimagining a truly human-centered emergency response system.

Gather is a video chat platform designed to make virtual interactions more human. Centered around fully customizable spaces, Gather makes spending time with your communities just as easy as real life.

Prior to joining us for the day, we recommend you read our Gather Guidelines document or view the Gather Guidelines video. Both resources provide helpful tips and tricks for navigating our custom Gather space and will help prepare you for what to expect on the day of the event.

Requirements: Join from your computer on any OS (Windows, macOS, Linux). Installing software is not required to use Gather. We recommend using Chrome or Firefox browsers for Gather. Safari is supported in beta. Mobile devices are not fully supported.

The first step in systemic change is understanding the system. Come help us find and evaluate data from 6,000 different 911 locations across the US.

Activity: 911 Data Discovery & Evaluation
The single most valuable action you can take today is helping us discover where the good data is—and where the data is missing.

Draw connections between public 911 data and other datasets. Are there trends between low-income neighborhoods and 911 budget data? How about service calls across age demographics? Let’s take a look.

Activity #1: Data Queries
The rubber meets the road when we investigate whether we can write SQL queries on publicly available data that answer our partner’s key questions.

Activity #2: Data Visualization
Using off-the-shelf integrations such as Tableau or Plotly we will create graphs, dashboards, and visualizations that help surface insights from the 911 data.

Not all prototypes are experimental cars or pizza delivery apps—they can also be written documents and early mock-ups that help someone understand the potential of a really good idea, and provide the foundation for further exploration and ideation.

Activity #1: Alternative 911 Case Studies
There are already dozens of 911-alternative programs in cities across the country. Help us document how they are helping their communities, and how they were able to get started.

Activity #2: Explore Grab-bag “How Might We” Statements
We’ve uncovered a few questions that could use creative minds with a variety of skills. Please know that activity here will be largely self-directed, with prompts and light context provided by Code for America.

Unless hosting a local action or guest speaker within Gather.Town, there is no formal responsibility for Brigade Leaders during the unified National Day of Civic Hacking event!

For those hosting a local action or speaker within Gather.Town, ensure that your Brigade members and special guests meet you in the appropriate regional breakout space when necessary.

For additional Brigade specific details, please review the 2021 National Day of Civic Hacking Toolkit.

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!

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 this 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 NDoCH 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 or activities that your Brigade does not plan to host in Gather.Town

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