Safecast is an international volunteer driven non-profit organization whose goal is to create useful, accessible, and granular environmental data. It was formed in response to the lack of publicly accurate and trustworthy radiation information after the Fukushima earthquake in 2011. Safecast began monitoring, collecting, and openly sharing information on environmental radiation. The information has proven useful to experts, policy makers, and the public. The system was then extended to monitoring air quality.
Safecast provides a set of hardware and software tools for gathering and sharing accurate environmental data in an open and participatory fashion. Safecast benefits from having a technically skilled pool of collaborators around the globe. All tools are available open source. All Safecast data is published, free of charge, into the public domain under a Creative Common license.
The tools provided by Safecast include: the mobile Safecast app for accessing radiation measurements and performing measurements using various instruments such as a Geiger or a scintillation counter; the mobile, GPS enabled, logging, radiation sensor bGeigie Nano; the outdoor air quality monitoring solution Airnote (built in partnership with Blues Wireless); the educational geiger counter kit “Kids Geigie”; the solar based radiation monitoring devices Solarcast and Solarcast Nano.
The measurements have been extended to other environmental data from countries around the world. This solution is also part of the catalogue of solutions and an example of how solutions often start small from a need and then spread to other countries, for other crises, in other contexts, or become part of everyday life. It also emphasizes the idea that the formality or informality of a solution is not a clear cut, it falls into a spectrum. A private organization in this case is not a formal actor, it is not part of emergency organizations, however, they created a well-established procedure to help prepare for disasters.
In the aftermath of the Fukushima accident, there was uncertainty about what the government was saying about the dangers of radiation. This solution overcomes the lack of information or the lack of trustworthy information for the population. By allowing residents to buy meters and enter their data into the database, a network of data from sources other than government measurements is created. Particularly in countries where people distrust the government, this solution provides a way for them to obtain their own or independent data. In addition, community participation in the measurements could lead to a sense of ownership and additional awareness and preparedness.