Disaster relief from the Crowd
Over the last few days the water gained the upper hand in some parts of Germany. Many people have lost everything during the second flooding of the century, although this century is only 13 years old. While pictures of flooded roads, houses, and schools flashed through the News channels, universities suspended lectures and exams, so that the students could help out.
The residents of the affected cities are working together with the helpers against the masses of water, and any help is gratefully accepted, whether filled sandbags, buttered bread rolls, or rescued furniture. Internet is also used for assistance and coordination. Crowdsourcing has enabled far-reaching communication, which in turn mobilises more targeted assistance and, above all, much more help. In order to provide a more focused assistance and send helpers, maps, particularly those provided by Google Maps are used http://bit.ly/12qEXeG. They are constantly updated by the support team in accordance with the latest information and tips received. Thanks to the different symbols, the most critical areas, provisional catering points, and stations for filling sacks of sands can be found along the entire flooded area (40 km) and in some places there is a list of the most-needed items. If there are already enough helpers in one area, or sand bags ready for collection, this is marked on the map and indications are given for the nearest point where help is needed instead. Even the route planning and information about which roads, bridges and streets are closed due to flooding are included here.
Crowdsourcing has already been used in several environmental disasters all around the world as a means to provide better assistance. Co-ordination through social media channels and mobile devices is normally only mentioned in connection with protests and riots. This is not surprising in general, since the younger generation, known as digital natives, also uses this self-organized form of help as a means of protest and to show errors. However, assistance in emergencies and disasters through the Crowd already has a long history. In 2011, after the tremendous floods in the Philippines, helpers, tools, and food were organized in the same way in order to create a universal supply. Last year, the forest fires in Russia had less disastrous results because of the fast action of internet-based organizations too. Only last year the city of Beijing with over a million inhabitants helped itself by using the Crowd to fight against the floods. Early this year, US citizens were warned about the devastating storms via web-based services and channels and helped each other to build up a support network.
This form of self-organization in disaster relief has not only the advantage of reaching more people, but also bringing help to more remote areas, to provide urgently needed relief in a more focused manner. Self-organized relief efforts also promotes the self-confidence of the helpers, and create a sense of belonging, which encourages even more optimism in difficult situations.
It is well-known that emergencies connect people, but helping in emergencies seems to connect people even more.