Hurricane Katrina: What Can We Do?

What can we do? Many people are already on their way as volunteers but, as in December, for now the most significant gesture most of us can make is a cash donation. (Some options: American Red Cross; Salvation Army; United Way; United Jewish Federation; Catholic Charities.) Leave it to the agencies to provide food, clothes and other supplies.

Another immediate need: information and information management.
Communications are completely cut off in some areas; it’s a crazy quilt
in others. People who have information to share may not have a place to
share it; those who need it may not know where to look. Some are going
to CraigslistMany bloggers are doing a great job but often on
the most micro of levels and not always easy to find. The Times-Picayune and other media in the hurricane’s path have
done an amazing job but many of them are in the same straits as the
people they are covering. People will need jobs, places to stay,
information about their homes, ways to share.

Philip Katner wrote me today to ask for help reaching Google with a
request; he heard from a mutual acquaintance that I knew a senior engineer there. The native New Orleanian is trying to do anything he can think
of from Washington D.C. that will help his  parents, five siblings,
friends and the extended, now far-flung New Orleans community.  Some
excerpts from our exchange:

Staci,

Please help, if you can. … Communication is direly needed for evacuees as well as emergency
personnel and they could tie it to their maps, with flood levels, body
counts, trapped individuals etc.  If there’s anyway you can help
everyone from NO would be most grateful. The best websites are extremely limited: nola.com and  wwltv.com. Thousands of us can’t locate relatives, friends, basic information
on our homes, etc.  The "504" exchange is all but dead, as is Biloxi
and now Baton Rouge’s.  Anything that Google could provide would be
helpful.  More than just the news link they currently provide.

My family (4 of 5 siblings accounted
for) and my folks are spread out across several states, in hotels and
friends houses.  Though most had "504" cell phone exchanges,
they’re all but unusable.  Several don’t even have electricity. People have started using Craigslist.com
to post lost & found for family members.  People are giving out
their addresses, telephone numbers, anything in hopes others will find
them.  New Orleans has always been impoverished and many families are
close-knit, never moved away from home … so once evacuated will have no
where to go where they’ll know people.

Each of the neighborhoods in NO is distinct, at varying levels of
height relative to sea-level.  Most people identify with their
neighborhoods.  Having maps they could click on to exchange
information would be an incredible gift, wonderfully intuitive and
would also help link up lost people to possible neighbors, friends and
family members.  Many of the more informative blogs are just
thousands and thousands of messages that are organized by Parishes. …
My sister and I, with access to cell phones and email and web and
cable TV having been coordinating communications through numerous
friends and family members and work colleagues… but it’s extremely
primitive."

Taking Philip’s idea beyond Google
alone, what if the sites making a push in  local search applied some of
those resources to New Orleans and other ares battered by the
hurricane?
Instead of pointing to restaurants and business that no
longer exist, provide zip-code information centers incorporating data,
maps and photos from FEMA, the Corps of Engineers and other resources.
Create spaces for people to meet online — and publicize it. Create an
uber-directory that pulls it all — volunteer efforts and professional — in one place. Work together to span
sites and portals.

Being local is easy when it’s about the best place for dinner. Helping communities recover from disaster, now there’s a test.

Related: Hurricane Katrina: Grasping the Concept
Hurricane Katrina: Managing The Information Flow

            

13 comments

  1. David Katner

    Hi, does anyone know of the conditions in the Carrollton neighborhood in New Orleans? My family (David, Evie, Max, Layne, Ava, and Brett) are safe in Birmingham, but would like any info specificially about Carrollton (Sycamore & Lowerline). Thanks much!
    David Katner
    504-554-7934

  2. Shaded

    State OES has learned that trapped victims on the Gulf Coast are calling
    family, friends, loved-ones, or anyone they can get a call out to in
    California asking for someone to rescue them. These requests need to go
    immediately to the US Coast Guard’s Rescue Line at 800-323-7233 and
    immediate assistance will be sent.
    Please distribute this information as widely as possible.
    Thank you.
    ************************************************************
    Eric Lamoureux
    Chief, Office of Public Information
    California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services
    Ph. 916-845-8400
    Cell. 916-869-3367
    Pgr. 916-845-8911
    Fax. 916-845-8444
    eric_lamoureux@oes.ca.gov

  3. Shanna

    While in the process of looking for my father, I came across many resources being offered by people wanting to help anyone affected by Katrina. I have set up a group in order to bring those needing help and those offering resources together:
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/KatrinaAid/
    The purpose of this group is to provide information and updates on the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina, and to offer a place where those who can offer relief can be matched up with those who need it.
    We will be looking for needed supplies donations, offers of assistance or shelter, messages and resources for locating family members. Please post your offers and ideas for helping or sources for more information. i would also like to get together some information about donation drop-off points for each region of the US, possibly local Salvation Army posts, etc.
    I would like to have anyone with needs post them, in order to make it easier for those sending anything to help adequately. I know that just about everything is needed right now, and I’d like to get the ball rolling as quickly as possible.
    At the very least, it might be a place to help family members and friends find each other.

  4. Staci K.

    Thanks for posting that here, Shanna. Just a reminder — cash is the primary need for now. It’s the most efficient way to make sure people are supplied. But there may be needs that can be filled by volunteers in cities housing refugees.

  5. Bertrand A. Williams

    Trying to locate my brother Raymond Williams III, who lives on Tennessee Street, New Orleans. Please contact us at (760) 272-6584 2104 Banda Ave., Calexico, CA. 92231

  6. victoria monson

    im sorry to you all. we dont have lots of money but we can help other way. if some want to talk or need anything let me know thank victoria number 541-938-5743

  7. victoria monson

    im sorry to you all. we dont have lots of money but we can help other way. if some want to talk or need anything let me know thank victoria number 541-938-5743

  8. Sam Smith

    Does anyone know if Sat Suma Alabama was hit hard? I have a 8 year old daughter there and I cannot get in contact with her. If anyone knows anything PLEASE email me.
    My prayers are with you all…..

  9. April

    I don’t have much $$ to give, but have lots of little boy clothes (sizes 24 mo to 4 T), some toys for toddlers and school supplies. I will pay to ship if anyone needs items.

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