Tag Archives: Occupy Sandy

Recovers.Org Reflects on their Hurricane Sandy Effort

Caitria O’Neill of Recovers.org passed this information along to me detailing their efforts during Hurricane Sandy. Recovers.org defines themselves as an organization that “…helps towns organize disaster recovery with mobile and web-based technology.”  The statistics presented below are as of November 10, 2012.  I like her conclusions so much I’m going to put them first:

This experience, more than any other in our history, has convinced me of the need for this type of platform. We need coordination between government, nonprofit and grassroots efforts. We need fewer forms, smarter tools, and cleaner data. We need simple, accessible information BEFORE a disaster, letting ordinary people know how to get involved in a safe, efficient manner.

Guest Post by: Caitria O’Neill

Here’s a check in from the team at Recovers.org. We had a whirlwind week after Hurricane Sandy, launching software for four neighborhoods in the city. This is an update from the software on the front line. 

Three successes:

1.) We bridged the interest/aid gap: In the first week, we were able to database over 23,000 skilled volunteers and item donors. These resources are now meeting needs. 

Reported needs are steadily increasing as more and more residents return home and assess the damage. While these volunteers could not all be used in the immediate aftermath, they are needed more than ever now.1.) We bridged the gap: In the first week, we were able to database over 23,000 skilled volunteers and item donors.

Google Search “Volunteer Sandy”
Recovers.org site traffic

Local organizations in impacted areas did not have the capacity to do this in the first week. Thanks to our site. We’ve taken the peak of interest in the disaster, and given it to them for long-term recovery. These organizers have already met over 100 needs reported through the site, with more coming in daily. Many more needs were met through posting public calls for volunteers on the front page of the site.

Compare the graphs for the Google search “Volunteer Hurricane Sandy” and a graph of our site traffic in the same time. Local churches and nonprofits operating in the deadzone could not translate this interest into aid in real time. We did – and effectively translated these web searches by motivated volunteers into a database record of skills and items that local churches and nonprofits can continue to leverage far into the future.

2.) The community owned their own recovery: While our tool kit contributed greatly to the initial capacity, this effort was completely owned and operated by local organizers on the ground. This wasn’t Recovers.org riding in on a white horse, this was application of a tool kit, by neighborhoods that needed it.

In NYC, we launched sites for the Lower East Side,  Red Hook, Astoria and Staten Island in partnership with the burgeoning Occupy Sandy movement. Our understanding was that each of these sites belonged to the communities they were named for, would remain there long-term, but that the people providing aid quickly should have the means to do so. Occupy Sandy was able to jumpstart recovery across the city – moving masses of people and goods from where they showed up to where they were needed most.

Now, we are seeing more and more community leaders and local organizations begin to take ownership of these tools. Pet shelters seeking pet-specific skills in volunteers. Local nonprofits looking for translators. Organizations with remote volunteers who want to help by matching needs and aid as administrators. Know any? Have them email support@recovers.org.

3.) We’ve learned: I’m not sure we were ready for Hurricane Sandy – but we now know we can handle a landscape scale disaster in the largest city in the US. We’ve also learned exactly how hard this is.

It is imperative that these systems be implemented BEFORE a disaster. Trying to reach and train administrators in a dead-zone, to teach them how to use an unfamiliar system during a disaster is unworkable. Here, it only worked through blood, sweat, tears, and dedicated volunteers. We were unable to provide additional sites for areas like Coney Island, the Rockaways, and Lindenhurst NY that also sustained damage.

We also learned a great deal about the way our tools are seen and used in the absence of training. We’ve built a long list of changes to implement, and have been responding to feedback in real time to make the site easier to use. Keep it coming.

Next Steps: 

This experience, more than any other in our history, has convinced me of the need for this type of platform. We need coordination between government, nonprofit and grassroots efforts. We need fewer forms, smarter tools, and cleaner data. We need simple, accessible information BEFORE a disaster, letting ordinary people know how to get involved in a safe, efficient manner.

Update: This organization was featured on Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/16/recoversorg-founders-buil_n_2143642.html