Your Name: Christine Sommers
Business Name: ePACT Network, an emergency crisis network
Business Location: North Vancouver, Canada
Reason for starting: The inspiration for ePACT came from our friend, Ayumi, a single mother of two young daughters, aged 4 and 10, who live in Fukushima, Japan. On March 11, 2011 Ayumi was in Tokyo for a day of business meetings when the massive earthquake and tsunami hit Japan. For 24 terrifying hours, she did not know if her kids were alive or not. Test messages, cell and landline phone calls all were down. She eventually reached her mother via email, and was able to communicate through the web as she worked to reunite with her family. Her experience inspired us to research the state of emergency preparedness and response in North America, where we found shocking gaps. We built ePACT to leverage the power of online networking to directly address existing issues impacting families and communities in crises, resulting in greater support and safety for all.
How do you define success? Our goal is to be in 70% of all families in 5 years. We are motivated to do this because of the increasing number of disasters we see year over year – Super Storm Sandy, Boston Marathon attacks, the Sandy Hook tragedy, Oklahoma tornadoes, massive floods, fires and other impacts. We know ePACT can make a difference in the connectivity, communications, support and safety for families in any crisis. So for us, spreading rapidly across North America is our goal and we define success by the number of families and communities that we can connect and better support.
Biggest Success: We came out of closed beta this summer, and are supporting schools, daycares, sports associations and employers. However, we were asked to use the system for a triathlon, and this was the first time where we got to see our system used in a crisis: supporting injured, ill or delirious athletes who could not communicate and provide their medical details or emergency contacts themselves. Seeing our system make a difference in the level of care and support they received was a huge win – and motivational boost – for our team, as you don’t actually want a disaster to happen and require the use of the system, but seeing how big a difference we made for medical staff caring for athletes was a great moment for us as a company.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it? We are focused on spreading the system as quickly as possible. Interestingly, emergency preparedness and response is getting greater attention from governments and organizations due to all the significant events over the past two years, however, the general public will typically not take steps to personally prepare (often the ostrich-head-in-sand reaction to acknowledging that crises can/will occur). We have targeted organizations that families rely on day to day and worked with them to use the system for their own benefits, and pull families into the system for greater collaborative preparation and planning. We are already seeing greater connections across entire communities as multiple organizations (e.g. sports team, day care, school and employer) all connect to the same families and those families emergency support network of friends and relatives who support them.
Who is your most important role model? I admire and follow Richard Branson, Tory Burch and Elon Musk due to their innovations, philanthropy and drive. Part of my personal motivation to spread ePACT as quickly as possible is in my desire to make a significant difference in the world. All three of these people are committed to doing that in very different ways, while also building incredibly successful companies. Branson in particular though – through some of his interviews and writings – has provided extra motivation for me in demonstrating the power and commitment to forge through failures as well as massive successes.
Edited by The Story Exchange