Superstorm Sandy Spawns New Ways to Help Online
Online communities have popped up for matching volunteers with people in need in the aftermath of the superstorm Sandy.
CREDIT: Screenshot from The Lower East Side Recovers
Superstorm Sandy pummeled many Eastern Seaboard residents, but spared others. Some people have no water or electricity, or have had to evacuate flooded apartments. Others are fully powered and somewhat bored at home.
Now, people on the Web are gearing up in several ways to connect the two groups. Those with Internet access and no worries at home are browsing Twitter and some newly minted Web tools to find and fulfill requests for food, water, flashlights, manpower and more.
At the most basic level, people are using two hashtags on Twitter to ask for and offer help. Those with nonemergency requests send out tweets that include the phrase "#SandyAid," while those who want to help send out tweets that say "#SandyVolunteer."
To help sort through those tweets, a group of volunteer computer programmers called the Hurricane Hackers is trying to build a program that will pull out true requests from all the tweets that include #SandyAid — many tweets with the phrase are simply expressions of support — and mark when requests are fulfilled.
Hurricane Hackers, which started the weekend before Sandy made landfall on Oct. 29, has several Sandy-related projects in the works, which anyone can view in the group's Google Doc. Volunteer programmers have already completed a timeline of Sandy events.
Another help request platform is Recovers.org, which sets up neighborhood-specific websites where people can make free accounts to post requests, donate money or items, and sign up as volunteers. Members of the Occupy Wall Street movement canvassing neighborhods to create request postings, TechPresident reported. Would-be volunteers may also read through an online posting board of requests without creating an account. Recovers.org has set up sites for the New York City neighborhoods of Astoria, the Lower East Side, Red Hook and Staten Island.
Monson, Mass., resident Caitria O'Neill co-founded Recovers.org last year after a tornado hit Monson and she and her sister realized firsthand how disorganized small community relief efforts can be, O'Neill told TechPresident. Recovers.org sites are designed to help people track what's needed and what's been donated during an emergency. The sites also create inventories for the next disaster, O'Neill said.
Of course, organizations with a longer history than Hurricane Hackers or Recovers.org are also looking for donations and volunteer time. The Daily Beast has a roundup of the needs of organizations such as the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and Feeding America.