Rise of the Remote Volunteer

People are wonderful.

After a disaster, there is a flood of goodwill that pours into communities to help with the local recovery effort. These volunteers and donors come not only from within the community, but from areas all over the US.

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The Problem
Unfortunately, it is hard for someone in California to help someone in New York in a meaningful way — they would have to travel to the devastated community. This is not only costly, but also causes an unnecessary influx of people to an unsafe disaster area.

The Remote Volunteer
We’re helping change this pattern and allow people across the country to volunteer meaningfully without rushing into a disaster zone. Using the Recovers.org platform, a California resident has the ability to help in a New York recovery effort, without ever leaving their home. We’re seeing a new class created – the remote volunteer. Since the Recovers.org software logs all of the needs, donations, and volunteers into online databases, it allows for volunteers outside of the disaster area to remotely view this information from their computer and match people in need of assistance with available local resources. Therefore, the person living in California can directly help those affected by the disaster in New York, without ever leaving their living room.

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Utilizing remote volunteers provides multiple benefits to recovering communities by:

  1. Capturing the goodwill of people from around the world and channeling it to help with the local recovery effort.
  2. Reducing the flood of out-of-town volunteers into an affected community, which is unsafe and unnecessarily inundates the local volunteer organizers.
  3. Lessening the burden and responsibilities of local volunteer organizers and lengthening their participation in the recovery effort.
  4. Helping bridge the gap from immediate response (first 7 days) to long-term recovery (2 months +).
  5. Increasing the speed and efficiency of meeting needs within the community.

Our Experience
We’ve seen these remote volunteers in action. After the initial response to Hurricane Sandy, local volunteer organizers began to leave the day-to-day recovery and return to their jobs and families. They were burning out and could not commit as much time to the recovery effort, but affected households were still reporting needs. To solve this problem, we empowered remote volunteers from NPower (http://www.npower.org/) to manage these incoming needs and match them with available resources. The fantastic crew of NPower volunteers, many from locations outside of the Hurricane Sandy disaster area, were able to spend a of couple evening hours contacting those in need of help and connecting them with available volunteers and donors. These remote volunteers helped fill in where the local volunteers had left off and bridge the gap from initial response to long-term recovery.

Again, people are wonderful. In response to a disaster, I have been pleasantly surprised by the overwhelming goodwill of those wanting to help. And it’s clear that the quantity of people is not a problem, but rather capturing and utilizing those people effectively. The right tools, given to the right people, can harness and deploy this goodwill in a recovery effort, and even allow remote volunteers to participate directly. That’s what we’re trying to do here at Recovers.org

Become a remote volunteer! Sign up at this link!

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Image Credits:
Family Care designed by Maurizio Fusillo from The Noun Project
Volunteer designed by Dima Yagnyuk from The Noun Project
Worker designed by Bart Laugs from The Noun Project

MyMove.com – Disaster Address Changes

How to Forward Your Mail to a Temporary Address

 In the wake of Hurricane Sandy and other recent natural disasters, homeowners have had to become more aware of the need for disaster preparedness, education and their own community’s crisis response protocols. It’s possible that your community or home could be severely impacted by a disaster, and that you’ll need to find temporary housing if one occurs. Securing shelter and making sure your family is safe is one of the most critical considerations when you’re displaced.

If the unthinkable happens and you need to find temporary housing, it would be nice if you could stay on top of important mail such as bills, insurance forms and health correspondences. This is easy when you file a temporary change-of-address with the United States Postal Service (USPS).

You can have your mail forwarded to a new address, or change address easily if you have to relocate.

Temporary Change of Address

 Before moving to your home, it’s likely that you changed your address with the official USPS website to ensure delivery of mail to your new address. When you’re forced to relocate due to a disaster or need to move to a temporary address, USPS offers a temporary change of address as an option. This means that USPS forwards your mail to the new address for as long as needed up to 60 days. Just as with a permanent address change, this can be done several ways:

  • Online: The easiest and most convenient method, this requires $1.00 verification fee with a valid credit card. (USPS electronically verifies the information you entered with the bank that issued your card. This is done to verify the address you provide matches the address record for your card.)

USPS offers information about the temporary change-of-address process and answers questions on their website FAQ.

Other Ways to Change Your Address Temporarily

Depending on your situation or your temporary housing setup, you might not have Internet access to complete a temporary change of address online. Check out these four other options:

  • By phone: This also requires the $1.00 verification fee.
  • In-person: Do this at the nearest post office.
  • By mail: You can mail the change-of-address card to any branch location.
  • Via a mail carrier: Hand your completed card to any mail carrier.

Disaster response personnel and designated volunteers may be able to assist you in completing the mail forwarding, as most have specific knowledge to help disaster victims accomplish “normal” routine tasks during a crisis. Completing a temporary change-of-address form and assuring your mail will be forwarded is one thing that will make temporary displacement a bit less stressful. 

Post by Nancy LaFevre for MyMove.com. MyMove.com is the place for stress-free moving. Visit us for a free customizable moving checklist, tips and hand-picked deals to make your move more affordable and less stressful.

 

 

The Year in Review

Creating new standards in disaster recovery

We would like to thank every one of you for your support throughout 2012. In the past year, the team at Recovers launched software for 12 communities, saw nearly 30,000 accounts created, and helped local organizers meet hundreds of reported needs. We’d like to take a moment to look back at the lessons we have learned this year.

A strong start

Our small team began working with disaster stricken communities across the United States nearly one year ago to design a better community toolkit. We believe that every community member has the right to help put their city back together, so we built tools for volunteer, donation and case management that anyone could safely use. The first version of this software was finished in April of 2012 and launched the same day in North Texas to aid a tornado recovery effort. Our site was able to gather $30,000 in donations in the first four days and captured the goodwill of more than 500 donors and volunteers.

More recently, after Hurricane Sandy our software was used in four neighborhoods of New York City to post important information and collect donations, volunteers, and needs. The software captured the goodwill of over 20,000 volunteers and donors, and helped organizers meet hundreds of needs. This database of resources can now be used in the long term recovery effort to rebuild the communities and meet the needs of those affected.

“We wouldn’t have been nearly as effective in helping people if it hadn’t been for the Recovers software.”
– Cooper Taylor from Forney, Texas

What we’ve learned

While our primary focus when launching software post-disaster is assisting the community, these “stress tests” in disaster zones teach us valuable lessons about recovery. We’re sharing a few of the most interesting points we’ve discovered this year.

1. The Remote Volunteer Organizer

Our software creates a new class of remote volunteer organizers, who can now log needs, donations, and volunteers into searchable online databases, and better match supply and demand.

Since the Recovers databases can be accessed anywhere via Internet, people from around the US can participate in local recovery efforts. Volunteers from groups like NPower and Occupy Sandy have directly helped by searching the databases and matching need with aid in their communities.

As things return to normal, and local volunteers return to work, we are seeing the power of these remote organizers. They can easily stay involved for longer, by spending just an hour or two at home in the evenings matching requests for help with available resources. Months after Hurricane Sandy, volunteers continue to meet reported needs.

2. Analyzing Disaster Data

Our software reveals gaps between “things people want to give”, and “things people need”. This information can help with resource distribution, guide donation, and highlight communities that need a little extra help.

Data from the Hurricane Sandy recovery effort revealed interesting information. First, 70% of all volunteers and donors that registered using our software occurred in the first 5 to 6 days after the Hurricane struck the city. The Recovers system was able to capture all of this initial interest which can now be used in the remainder of the recovery effort. If no system was in place, all of this goodwill would have been lost.

Second, knowing the most requested needs, donated items, and volunteered skills gives a good idea of what you can leverage in your recovery effort, and what gaps need to be filled. During Hurricane Sandy, it is now evident that clothing is the most readily available donation item, and that volunteers can be leveraged for debris removal purposes.

Stay tuned for more articles on this blog  as we continue to analyze our data from Hurricane Sandy and other recovery efforts! 

- The Team at Recovers.org

Why I’m coding for Recovers

Crossposted from codeforAmerica.org/blog.

My year as a Code for America Fellow was a whirlwind. Last January, inspiring thought leaders explained local government, startup processes, and the art of negotiation. In February we had 100+ meetings about problems in our city, and a boatload of suggested solutions we could build.

By March, I had something akin to an information hangover. We were ready to get started, but didn’t know the best place to begin. Once the team had picked a direction — in our case disaster preparedness and crisis response — the race began. With only a year, the feedback loop is fast, and the learning curve, steep. The closest comparison for me is downhill mountain biking: riding downhill, moving fast, and hopefully responding faster. Once at the bottom, having managed to not die, and still atop a bike, means you probably did an okay job. After all, in civic tech you might also be the only one who tried. De facto “best” at doing that thing despite yourself.

However, one sentiment shared across many of the fellows this year was that we weren’t done: there was more work to do. Sure some of us were done with parts of it, like the stipend, or being called “interns” or a nickname I came to dread, “the codies.” In such a fast-paced environment, we’d barely had a chance to correct and account for all the stuff learned along the way.

At the end of the year it was surprising how many options were open to me. Being able to show initiative, gumption, GitHub repos, and have ownership of projects being used out in the wild, solving real problems was incredibly valuable. Options are great — they can also be really overwhelming — and despite all of them, nothing really is a logical “next step” for a Code for America Fellow.

When Recovers.org, one of CfA’s Accelerator companies focused on crisis response and disaster preparedness, mentioned their team would be growing it took awhile to set in that I really could keep trying to tackle the issues I honed in on during my Fellowship in Austin. I could take what I learned and apply it to stuff.

I’m really excited about my new gig as Design Director at Recovers.org. I count myself as lucky to be working with an awesome team, doing important work that’s interesting, fun, and makes the world a better place.