Tag Archives: response

Disaster Crowdsourcing Event – FEMA’s Disaster Hackathon

Disaster Crowdsourcing Event – FEMA’s Disaster Hackathon
Sat, Oct. 21, 2017, 10 AM – 5 PM Eastern USA time
Washington, DC. and virtually

“Learn about FEMA’s current crowdsourcing coordination efforts, participate in building new projects, experiment with new tools, and shape the future of crowdsourcing in emergency management. If you are not in DC or cannot come in person, sign up to volunteer remotely. All skill levels and backgrounds are welcome, you don’t need to be a coder to participate in this Hackathon! Just bring a laptop!”

Sign up to participate onsite, or online, here.

Yes, I’ve signed up to participate remotely!
FEMA flyer

guide to social media emergency management analytics

Need a guide to social media emergency management analyticsHumanity Road just published one.

“Emergency Management is a mature field of study but Social Media Analytics is still in its infancy and navigating this field requires an understanding of the opportunities it presents. We are publishing this guide as a helpful tool for emergency managers and decision makers to help them identify and discuss relevant questions in planning their SMEM response. One example of key lessons to include in your own SMEM plan is establishing a baseline for communications activity in your area of operation.”

“We outline two types of application of social media analytics: one as postdisaster assessment and research which aggregates and analyzes data for statistical trending and strategic planning purposes, and the other conducted at the onset, during disaster response, and during recovery phases for rapid assessment and response focused on tactical execution. In general, this guidebook is meant for the latter, although the principles apply to both.”

I’ve been reviewing this for the last few minutes, and it seems absolutely RIGHT ON. Great stuff here – real-world advice, not just theory.

coyote1Have you read this report? Have a comment about this report or about using social media in community emergencies? Comment below!

Spontaneous “online volunteers” after disasters

When a big news story or disaster strikes, the result can be hundreds, even thousands, of people contacting organizations to offer help, including potential online volunteers. It could be a natural disaster, an act of violence, or a particular issue suddenly becoming the hot item on the news. A nonprofit organization, NGO, school, or other organization could suddenly be swamped with emails and phone calls from people who want to help in some way online.

Of course it’s appropriate for your organization to encourage these spontaneous online volunteering candidates to make an emergency financial donation to the organization — and be explicit about exactly what this money will be used for. But in addition, you should think about ways these spontaneous online volunteering candidates could engage in other activities to benefit your organization in a crisis situation:

  • Put up a page on your web site specifically for these people thanking them for wanting to help in this time of crisis or intense attention. Outline on that page all of the ways they can help your organization both as donors and online volunteers. Direct them to other organizations if there are ways to volunteer at these organizations in some way.
  • Encourage these spontaneous online volunteering candidates to subscribe to your email newsletter, your blog, your FaceBook account and/or your Twitter feed, wherever you are posting photos online, etc., to stay up-to-date on what your organization is doing to address whatever issue or circumstance is occurring.
  • Encourage them to repost your messages to their own blogs, their own status updates on online social networking sites, etc., to educate their friends and colleagues about what is happening. Direct them to where to find information about the online volunteering activities you have available.
  • Encourage them to write you if they see misinformation online about your organization and its work in this crisis situation.
  • Set up a YahooGroup or GoogleGroup only for these potential online volunteers, and tell them online volunteering opportunities will be announced on this group as soon as they become available. You could use the group to brainstorm with these potential online volunteers what activities they could undertake for your organization.

Some things these spontaneous online volunteers could do regarding this crisis or immediate high-profit situation:

  • Translate some of your existing web site material, flyers, blogs, Facebook status updates or new information into another language
  • Translate texts or blog comments coming into your organization from another language into English, so you can read and respond to such.
  • Monitor media reports and bring certain articles or information to your immediate attention.
  • Monitor online communities and blogs and bring certain information, and even misinformation, to your immediate attention (more on how to deal with misinformation).
  • Research what other organizations are doing that your organization might need to urgently know about, such as projects that are mapping eyewitness/on-the-ground reports of critical needs. For instance, following the Haiti Earthquake, OpenStreetMap created a crisis mapping project, mobilizing highly skilled online volunteers to layer up-to-the-minute data, such as the location of new field hospitals and downed bridges, onto post-quake satellite imagery. This data was made freely available by for-profit companies including GeoEye and DigitalGlobe. The digital cartography — informed by everything from Tweets to eyewitness reports — helped aid workers speed food, water and medicine to where it was needed most.
  • Create a smart phone application that is urgently needed. CrisisCamp mobilized hundreds of online and onsite volunteers in Washington, DC; London, England; Mountain View, California; and elsewhere to build and refine a variety of tech tools needed after the Earthquake in Haiti, including a basic Creole-English dictionary for the iPhone to help aid.

These are not just nice things for online volunteers to do in a crisis; they are critical services. Depending on the mission of your organization, you might want to consider including how to deal with spontaneous online volunteering candidates in your crisis communications plans.

The above information is from the revised Virtual Volunteering Guidebook, which will be published later in 2013.

People not following-through on volunteering in disasters

The state of Queensland, Australia suffered from horrific floods in December 2010 and January 2011. Thousands of Australians expressed interest in volunteering, inundating volunteer centers and online message boards.

Recently, Volunteering Queensland offered this Submission to Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry, which said, in part:

QUEENSLAND’S peak volunteer organisation says the vast majority of people who registered to help clean up following the floods and cyclone Yasi backed off at the last minute.

Some people backed out because they realized this was a real commitment of time, and they couldn’t make that real commitment. Some dropped out because they could not donate a significant amount of time – an hour or two when you might have some time eventually is usually not enough for such a situation. Some backed out because they really were not prepared to volunteer (they hadn’t set up child care, time off from work, transportation, etc.).

Seasoned volunteer managers, of course, aren’t surprised. Even in a non-disaster situation, we have come to expect at least 50 percent of people who express interest in volunteering to drop out. That’s why many volunteer managers, including myself, insist on at least a bit of screening before a volunteer is placed into an assignment, so that drop outs happen in the screening process, not after the assignment is given and we’re counting on those volunteers.

Martin Cowling has done a great blog about this Queensland report, and I encourage you to head over to it, read it, read the comments (yes, I’ve commented there) and respond yourself.

Here is a resource I created following the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, Volunteering To Help After Major Disasters, which I’ve regularly updated at least monthly every since, per the over-whelming number of posts to places like YahooAnswers by people who want to volunteer following a disaster (earthquake, hurricane, tornado, tropical storm, flood, tsunami, oil spill, zombies, etc.). It’s become one of the most popular pages on my web site, despite being posted as almost an after-thought and being focused on people that the majority of my web site is not focused on (it’s not even linked from my home page!).

Tags: volunteering, volunteers, relief, disaster, response, spontaneous, episodic, microvolunteer, microvolunteering. communications, public relations, engagement, engage, community, nonprofit, NGO, not-for-profit, government, outreach, staff, employees, civil society, floods, tornadoes


Helping Southern states in the USA

Disaster is striking in the American Southeast. Recent tornadoes and current flooding have brought devastation and heartache to many parts of the South, and messages are everywhere on various online communities, asking how to help. There is an incredible amount of misinformation being posted about how to help as well.

If you want to help the states affected by recent tornadoes and current flooding in the USA, you can:

  • Watch the news, and when you hear a county name for a state that is being affected, or a city name, look up the American Red Cross chapter, or the local Humane Society/ASPCA/animal welfare organization serving that area on Google. Most of these will have a web site that allows you do donate directly to the organization. The Red Cross provides emergency housing and various other emergency services to local people, but usually doesn’t allow pets in their emergency shelters; local animal shelters are struggling with abandoned pets and pets that aren’t allowed into emergency shelters. Your donations provide desperately needed funds to help both food and animals! The Red Cross estimates that it will spend as much as $31 million responding to these recent disasters; you can donate to the national chapter, but many feel better donating directly to chapters serving an affected area.
  • If you want to volunteer in a disaster-affected area, you need to be entirely self-funded and self-sufficient, formally affiliated with a credible organization, and have full approval of that organization to go to the area and serve as a volunteer. People affected by these disasters need to be protected from unscrupulous people who may use this situation to take advantage of others (it’s already happening), and people affected by these disasters deserve trained people who won’t end up having to be cared for themselves because they are woefully unprepared (yes, it happens). Here’s much more about the realities of volunteering to help after major disasters.
  • Unless you have read on a web site by an organization in the affected area that they are accepting donations of food and clothing, do NOT start gathering food and clothing for the affected area. It’s often much cheaper – and much safer – for a relief organization to buy food and ship it to an area, knowing they are buying exactly what’s needed, knowing the food is not spoiled, knowing it’s appropriate, etc., than to ask for donations and have to spend endless hours figuring out what food is usable, what is not, and trying to put together meals based on what is donated. If you are determined to donate items for an affected area, then call the local Red Cross and local communities of faith in the affected area and ask if they will accept what you are gathering to donate. And be prepared to drive to the area yourself – no one is going to come pick them up from you, as they are much too busy dealing with disaster victims. Also, note that organizations are saying they CANNOT handle any more used toys or cast-off clothing (they would prefer cleaning supplies and diapers!). More on donating things instead of cash or time (in-kind contributions).
  • You can also look at the web sites of high schools serving these affected areas; if they are in need of something (prom dresses, school supplies, etc.), they will say so directly on their web site.

Obviously, donating financially is the way to go if you really want to help. Even just $10 will help – and, yes, you can afford $10 (don’t buy coffee shop coffee for a few days, make your lunch for a few days, don’t eat from any restaurants all week, reduce your cable package subscription to the most basic for a month or two, etc.).

Use this as an incentive to call your local American Red Cross, right now, and start getting training for disaster in your own area. Why not at least call and attend the next volunteer orientation? There’s no obligation to volunteer just for attending the orientation!

Tags: nonprofit, NGO, not-for-profit, outreach, disaster, volunteer, tornado, flood, earthquake, tsunami, volunteers, donations, donate, canned goods, clothing, clothes

What triggers humanitarian action?

What constitutes humanitarian action, or triggers a humanitarian response? The obvious answers: a devastating natural event, like a flood or earthquake, or a devastating war, civil or otherwise, or a widespread illness outbreak, like HIV/AIDs.

But a staff member at ALNAP asks in a recent blog: what about urban violence? What about an ongoing cycle of violence that leaves local people and communities just as devastated and insecure as any of the aforementioned conditions that usually trigger a humanitarian response? What about, for instance, the unfolding violence in Rio de Janeiro, as government forces confront the drug gangs that have for years terrorized individuals and communities and wreaked havoc every bit as devastating as a series of tornados? (I realize a lot of people in the USA may not be aware of what’s happening in Rio right now, as its the violence in Mexico that dominates what little international news we get).

The author points out that, in such violent situations, large-scale involvement of international agencies would probably NOT be welcomed by local governments. But are there approaches from the humanitarian world that the local government and donors might undertake? He asks further:

How can humanitarian agencies engage with these issues, and maintain the flexibility to respond to needs in ways that are both principled and pragmatic, wherever they may arise? And how will programming need to change to ensure agencies provide timely and relevant assistance which delivers durable humanitarian outcomes in challenging urban contexts?

It’s a fascinating blog! If you are an aid or development worker, or a government person who might face such a situation, its worth your time to read.

(ALNAP is the Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance in Humanitarian Action).