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Wildfire Evacuation Enforcement and Optimization in California


Wildfire in California has been a remarkable issue. EvacMap is a prototype that can help evacuees get up-to-date information during a wildfire evacuation. It shows the optimized route to an evacuation shelter and provides instant updates on wildfires in California. 

This is class work at DEVENG 290 Innovation in Disaster Response at UC Berkeley.


Virginia Wong

Eliana Abbas

Kunj Jain


Jan-May, 2020

My Contribution

Problem research and framing, Interview, Brainstorming, Ideation, Prototyping(my full responsibility)

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Project Timeline


Problem Areas

Where is the Root of the Problem?

Wildfires are extremely common in California and growing worse due to the influence of climate change. In just 4 months of 2020, California has had nearly 700 wild fire events. Take the Kincade fire in 2019 as an example, the massive blaze burned 77,758 acres and over 200,000 people were evacuated.


Problem Scale

  • 2 million Californian homes at high risk of wildfires (2019)

  • 4 million homes at risk of significant damage during an earthquake (2019)

  • 250,000 locals & millions of tourists in potential tsunami zones (2013)

Evacuation processes & experiences must be improved to ensure evacuated individuals & families quickly reach safe destinations, including reducing the response time for evacuating individuals from wildfires and improving the communication from local aithorities to those involved. Increased awareness of evacuation routes, systems, & procedures is needed.

While researching evacuation procedures, however, the biggest thing we realized is that no one - from the authorities to the evacuees - is fully prepared for evacuation and accurate information about evacuating is hard to find.

Local Authorities

Emergency Shelters



In all our research, we determined that the key issue is a lack accurate, up-to-date communication about evacuation.

Target User Group

Helping Evacuees has the Greatest Direct Impact


After conducting interviews with different stakeholders, we finally narrowed our target user group to evacuees because, based on our interviews, our team believes that helping evacuees has the most potential for direct impact as they are highly involved in every stage of evacuation. 


“I was flying through the flames and dark smoke. The fire was really racing after us, and man I was scared.”


“The toughest part was that it was really hard to get any information… The uncertainty for a week was horrible.”


Stakeholders' Map

Who Impacts Evacuees' Experience

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User Insights

Which stage of evacuation should we focus on?

We divided the evacuation into 3 stages: pre- , during and post-evacuation. Similar to how we narrowed down our user, we decided to focus on the issues during evacuation; specifically the issue of helping evacuees find the safest route to the closest shelter. 

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Image from In-class post-it sessions


Meet the Rindell Family

George and Mary Rindell have lived in Oakhurst, California - just outside of Yosemite National Park - for the fifteen years of their marriage. Their daughter, Briony, has just turned thirteen, and their son, Samuel, is a rambunctious four-year-old.

They hear about fires in the park and the surrounding area every year during fire season, but they’re not worried. After all, they’ve been here fifteen years without having to deal with more than a few weeks of smokey air. What’s the worst that could happen?





User Journey Maps

Current Evacuation Experiences

Journey Map.jpg

How might we provide evacuees with accurate, up-to-date information on evacuation routes to safe locations?



Finding the Innovative Concept

With that, we started brainstorming as many possible solutions. To select our final concept, we grouped similar ideas together with affinity mapping. We took our top 3 ideas: Mapping, Route-Finding Infrastructure, and a “Smart-Helper” device, and listed out pros and cons of each one. We eventually decided to create a Mapping solution because of its improved marketability, and its feasibility based on the current existing technology.


Image from In-class post-it sessions

affinity mapping.jpg

Image from In-class post-it sessions

Idea Categories

  • Physical Infrastructure

  • Routes & Navigation

  • Information & Communication

  • Packing & Preparation

  • Educational Programs



Image from In-class post-it sessions

Our Evaluation Criteria

  • Feasibility

  • Ease of Use

  • Creativity / Uniqueness

  • Integration

  • Cost

  • Impact





High Impact & Technological Feasibility


With a concept in mind, we jumped into prototyping. We looked at different ways to improve route-finding, and the different features that came with those technologies. We focused on using a mobile application, with the future possibility of integrating an AR interface within the cars themselves like the windshield. We wanted to take something many people are already familiar with, like Google Maps, and insert our desired features so that it could be used while driving.



Route Optimization

Guides you to the closest shelter, avoiding all the road congestions to reach safety quickly.

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Live Updated Information

Shows you the latest information about the fire, so you can avoid unnecessary danger and get emergency services in time.

Live Updates.jpg

AR Windshield Guide

All the information will be displayed on the AR windshield interface to update you without getting you distracted from driving.

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Improved User Journey Map with EvacMap

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Final Design - EvacMap


Route Optimization

By clicking on the shelters button, evacuees could browse nearby shelters' information. The shelters' images and reviews will be showed to help them decide where to go. Once they decide the destination, EvacMap will guide them to the closest shelter, optimizing the routes to avoidall the road congestions to reach safety quickly.

Live Updated Information

By clicking on the emergency button, evacuees could quickly get helped at emergency centers. And they could see live wildfire scale on the map while driving to the shelter. Most importantly, live updates related to evacuees, including shelters, traffic, even their original heighbourhood updates, will shown on the app on their way to safety.


AR Windshield Guide

Concept 3.jpg
When disaster calls, do you know where to go?
"We do."
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