Nick Heyming, co-owner and co-founder of The Emerald Village and Disaster Tools has a long history with disaster relief dating back to Hurricane Katrina. He has recently brought together his passion for interactive gaming, strategy and disaster relief to bring innovation and support across the globe to help millions in need.Here is what he had to say about his work and how it impacted our community when we were faced with the Lilac Fires:The Emerald Village has been a source of constant challenges and opportunities. Since we founded it 7 years ago, we’ve all had to deal with balancing our private lives, our professional careers, and the many obligations that come from owning and maintaining a large property. Over the last few months this became particularly clear, as circumstances in the outside world confronted us in unique ways.I’ve been working on an app to teach people gardening called Seeds for the last few years. We developed a prototype for it and have tested it around the village. This past fall, after a slew of hurricanes had devastated the Atlantic, and fires were raging in Santa Rosa and Ventura, my team decided to pivot and take the engine we’d developed for Seeds and use it to coordinate relief and information before, during, and after disasters. We call the project Disaster.Tools, and after working out the engineering and data architecture were contacting relief organizations from Texas to Florida to the California Wine Country to see how we could best assist them.One morning last December, after a night where I spent hours discussing the gaps in relief with the Santa Rosa fire recovery, the whole village came together to do fire mitigation. We fired up our chainsaws, pulled out our brush clearing gear, and busily spent the whole morning removing dead trees and other fire hazards opposite our creek. As we were wrapping up, we looked into the sky and saw smoke wafting over the hill.We must have had some premonition of what was to come, as the Lilac fire proceeded to engulf the senior center where my Grandmother lives two canyons over, and over 4000 acres burned as winds whipped the flames from Fallbrook to Oceanside. The whole village came together, and we stayed up late into the night setting up ember watches, coordinating evacuation plans, checking on neighbors, and figuring out logistics for our crops and farm animals as electricity and water went out.It was intense going through our houses, surveying all of our possessions for the things we couldn’t replace. It was a relief to have people like Jonah, Navy Seal and Firefighter, help us prioritize, or Jessica, who’d been spearheading our emergency preparedness plans, help us rally and coordinate. It was particularly intense for me, having literally spent the last day writing disaster preparedness guides for fire response, and having spent the last few months creating Disaster.Tools. All these hypothetical situations we’d been describing suddenly became real.In the end, we were fortunate. Our community was spared by the fire, and even my grandmother and aunt somehow escaped the blaze that swept through their neighborhood. Over a hundred families in the area were not so lucky though. My team with Disaster.Tools ended up partnering with the Burners Without Borders and San Diego VOAD to send work crews out to those impacted by the fires, helping them sift through rubble, clear burnt landscaping, and get ready to rebuild. It was sobering work, seeing what could so easily have happened to us, but it did provide us an opportunity to give back, as well as to test the tools we’ve been building in a real-life disaster response.We’re going to continue to develop the Disaster.Tools app, hopefully with a public version accessible in time for the coming hurricane and fire seasons. If you’d like to help, please send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org , we’re in a seed funding round right now and could particularly use assistance with UI/UX. If we learned anything from the last few months, its the importance of everyone coming together to help each other out in times of need.