Safety in Numbers

In 2017, Ginny Katz had an epiphany. Personalized, location-based communication software, such as apps used in social media platforms, could assist people in large public emergencies. Earthquakes and active-shooter situations can generate a flood of appeals for help, overwhelm the 911 emergency response system and delay effective responses. She saw a need for improvement.

Katz is a Ph.D. student in human geography at Oregon State University and advised by Assistant Professor James Watson, who directs the Socio-Environmental Analysis (SEA) Lab in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.

She created a startup company, HazAdapt, to help the public and emergency managers foster personal and community resilience. With a boost from the University Venture Development Fund in the Oregon State University Advantage program, Katz refined her goals and studied the market for emergency management software. The market serving students and university professionals alone is estimated at $150 million a year.

Her collaborators include graduate students and professors Margaret Burnett and Anita Sarma in OSU’s School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “I have been surprised and thankful. The people I share this dream with have jumped on it heart and soul,” says Katz.