Sunday, February 10, 2013 - By Ben Berkowitz - No comments

Lend Your Neighbor A Hand


Last night I did a triage tour of New Haven in a City emergency vehicle with Rob Smuts, City Official in charge of New Haven during the blizzard. New Haven has had the most snow of any area affected by the blizzard.  3’+.  We went out looking at how the plows were doing and if any flooding had occurred yet at some of the low lying areas.

We did not expect to find the City so incapacitated. The first vehicle we found stuck was an ambulance responding to a call. 10 minutes later we found ourselves pushing out a police car responding to a call. Behind the police car was a sand and plow truck that had become stuck. We would have needed Corey Booker to push that one out.  Similar stories of stuck plows have been circulating all over the east coast.

At the emergency operations center in New Haven the City was using Veoci, an emergency management software founded in New Haven for responding to disasters and on the outside citizens were using SeeClickFix.com, also founded in New Haven, to report problems in.   At one point last night ambulances were ordered off the road and it became very evident that as citizens we are as reliant on each other speaking up as we are on each other helping out.

In Boston Joseph Porcelli at Neighbors for Neighbors had the wise idea of using SeeClickFix to encourage neighbors to sign-up to lend a hand shoveling and to ask for help.  Most folks use SeeClickFix to ask for help from their City but in more and more cases neighbors are helping to solve those problems on their own.  As a result, right now in the Northeast neighbors are shoveling out other neighbors in need. Elderly folks and those with disabilities have already been paired with shovelers.  The peer-to-peer network on SeeClickFix that has been created out of a desire to create better citizen to government communication is optimizing and expanding on the neighborly need for, and instinct to, help.

Just a few minutes ago an NYPD Officer posted a request for neighbors to help shovel him out in Holbrook, NY (http://seeclickfix.com/issues/394437-nypd-officer-needs-help-shoveling-out). In the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston folks have already organized to help get a disabled woman’s vehicle shoveled out (http://seeclickfix.com/issues/391411-please-shovel-my-car).

Together with Neighbors for Neighbors and SeeClickFix users, we are encouraging citizens to help shovel their neighbors out and lend a hand where they need assistance.  The city’s phone lines are also likely overburdened with calls, so if its not an emergency, neighbors can use SeeClickFix to report downed trees, street flooding, power outages, unshoveled streets and other problems that need to be documented but may have to wait for a few days.   Thousands of clean-up requests and calls for assistance were issued in the Northeast in the days that followed Hurricane Sandy. We hope that this storm is not nearly as devastating, but we are confident that even more neighbors will now be connected to help out.

A lot of great progress has been made in citizens to government participation, and SeeClickFix is proud to be facilitating this service. As we look to future, with budgets shrinking, demand for service rising, and mother nature throwing Sandy’s and Nemo’s at us, we are going to forced to get creative on how we address these challenges. Empowering citizens to help each other and solve more of the own problems increases net capacity, efficiency, and value for all involved.

Neighbors who want to help out can sign-up to receive requests for assistance from those who need near them at http://www.seeclickfix.com/registration/new/nemo

Neighbors looking for assistance can use the SeeClickFix iPhone and Android apps as well as http://www.SeeClickFix.com or the NeighborsforNeighbors SnowCrew page.

Want to embed the snowcrew widget on your site? Code here: http://seeclickfix.com/map_widgets/2904

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