Twilio Adds Open-Source ‘Rapid Response Kit’ To Help Teams Deploy Apps In A Crisis

Adobe Firefly-created image of three rescue pilots in front of a helicopter, getting ready to respond to an emergency.

It’s no surprise that technology has played an integral part in times of disaster, emergency, or crisis. Companies like Twitter, Facebook, and Google have all offered their support to assist people in affected parts of the world to ensure they can communicate with their loved ones and help share eyewitness accounts. One of those companies happens to be Twilio, and it recently launched a new open-source offering called a “Rapid Response Kit” to assist rescue teams and organizations in rapidly deploying telecommunication-focused apps.

Available through the company’s social good foundation,, this Kit is available on GitHub for any developer to fork and craft their apps that will help aid their teams in an emergency. Just like how the military has a set of troops available to make quick incursions, so too do non-profits, at least when it comes to mobile apps.

Inside the Twilio Rapid Response Kit

Twilio is providing developers with eight ready-to-go apps, chosen for their versatility in meeting immediate team needs, whether for emergency response or community organization. The kit comprises the following apps:

  • Auto-Respond – Use this tool to set up a recorded auto-responder to inbound voice calls or text messages.
  • Broadcast – Send one-way communications to a defined group of contacts.
  • Conference Line – A simple and easy to use conference line. Provide your contacts with a single number and when dialed will be dropped into a conference call.
  • Forward – A quick and easy way to set up a simple call forward from a Twilio number.
  • Ringdown – A tool that allows you to dial one number, which then will sequentially dial down a list of prioritized contacts until one of those contacts answer. You are able to set up contact lists ahead of time.
  • Simple Help Line – Use this interactive voice response app to set up simple options for callers to press a number for information, or to connect to a pre-determined agent.
  • Survey – An SMS-powered survey app, send out questions to a specified list of numbers and gather responses. You define the response parameters.
  • Town Hall – With this group conference call tool, an organizer can dial one number which then dials a list of predefined contacts. Individuals who answer the call are dropped into the same conference. This can handle up to 40 people in one conference call.

Expediting Apps to Save Lives

In a way, Twilio’s ready-to-go apps are perhaps akin to what you might find with a service like Parse. The idea is that in times of an emergency, organizations don’t want to waste time deploying and testing apps — they want to focus on helping people. The company appears to have made a significant attempt with the Rapid Response Kit to reframe the story, shifting the focus of groups from the technology to the disaster, crisis, and emergency. According to the company, this new tool claims the ability to deploy apps “in a trivial amount of time” compared to weeks or days.

Some could look at Twilio’s move here as a sign that developers are no longer willing to be complacent when there’s an emergency. Previously, when disaster struck, we suffered with antiquated communication options, unable to check in with our loved ones or find out what was going on, apart from relying on the news (and we all know how well CNN, MSNBC, and FOX News have been). The Rapid Response Kit allows any size organization to quickly set up shop and deploy apps to help achieve their objective without needing to have the big budgets to sustain it.

Early Adoption of the Twilio Rapid Response Kit

The Rapid Response Kit has already found utility with The Polaris Project and Code for America, two partners that have supported since its launch in September. Some of the apps developed through the Rapid Response Kit include one dedicated to assisting Austin, Texas residents in preparing and communicating during wildfire emergencies. Another app serves as a call-in system specifically designed to help cities collect, share, and understand community feedback.

Twilio asserts that this marks the initial phase of “collecting the building blocks, tools, and expanded resources for anyone to use.” The organization envisions the developer community seizing the opportunity to leverage the open-source software apps, forking them to craft solutions tailored to their organization’s specific needs.

As referenced earlier, is a social good non-profit foundation that delivers “a billion messages for good.” It is providing organizations and charities $500 in Kickstarter credits and a 25 percent discount on the use of its voice and messaging service. During the 2013 edition of TwilioCon, company CEO Jeff Lawson announced the establishment of to help Twilio broaden its efforts and make them more accessible to non-profits.

If you care about the technical specifications, Twilio’s kit will need Python 2.7, a virtualenv to sandbox it from the rest of the development or server environment, and pip.

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