Online Volunteers Respond to Hurricanes Harvey & Irma

Sep 8, 2017

Our mission is to build software that empowers people to raise their voice in times of crisis. We love technology because it allows us, as individuals, to play an active role in response efforts and we often receive questions about what is “being done” during a given event. There are times, however, when the scale of the work to be done seems overwhelming.

There are currently a wide range of disasters happening in our world. Massive flooding in south Asia has killed over 1,000 and displaced millions; severe rains in western Africa have triggered a mudslide in Sierra Leone that killed hundreds, with several hundred more missing; Hurricane Harvey has left a trail of destruction throughout the southern United States and a financial toll of $80 billion; and Hurricane Irma has caused widespread destruction through the Caribbean and is headed for the mainland of the U.S.

We have specifically received several queries regarding efforts or volunteer opportunities for Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. We are monitoring the response to these storms to the best of our ability and can provide services to small grassroots and neighborhood organizations who reach out to us. We also want to acknowledge the great work of many online volunteer efforts and urge interested volunteers to support existing efforts.

Known Ushahidi Deployments

While we cannot track all instances of our software being used, we make every effort to support deployers who contact us. At present there are two Ushahidi deployments that we are aware of:

Hurricane Irma Map is a collaboration between The New Tropic, WLRN public radio and television in south Florida and South Floridians to help with hurricane preparation, survival and recovery

Hurricane Harvey Spill Tracker is an initiative of SkyTruth to collect reports of oil leaks or spills, or other possible chemical spills or releases as a result of Hurricane Harvey.

Other Online Volunteer Efforts

The Irma Response Network: is an open community of technology advocates and volunteers who have developed a set of online tools, including a Shelter Availability Map, to connect people in the potential path of Hurricane Irma with resources to help prepare and recover. Members include the Code for America brigades in Florida and other selfless hackers from around the world with support from Sketch City in Houston.

Further links and information about projects, data, resources, and how to get involved can be found here.

Follow them on Twitter @IrmaResponse.

Harvey Relief / Harvey Rescue: Is a network of citizen activists who began collecting and mapping online calls for help that were being posted to social media during Hurricane Harvey. Several individuals and organizations are working together to gather information on needs and resources in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. They may be activating for Hurricane Irma.

See maps, data, and volunteer opportunities for Hurricane Harvey here.

Follow them on Twitter @HarveyRelief.

Those specifically interested in Irma should follow their Twitter feed for updates and the, tentative, @CrowdRescueHQ Twitter feed.

Standby Task Force (SBTF) organizes digital volunteers into a flexible, trained and prepared network ready to deploy in crises. They were active during Hurricane Harvey to response to search social media for reports of damage and requests for assistance; process and map this information; and make it available to responding agencies. While they have ended their deployment for Hurricane Harvey, there is potential that they may re-activate for Hurricane Irma and/or José.

See their Harvey map here (requires free ArcGIS online account to view)

For information about how to volunteer with SBTF see their website.

Follow them on Twitter @SBTaskForce.

Humanity Road strives to close the communications gap during sudden onset disaster and monitors social media to save lives. They support aid agencies and first responders by relaying urgent needs and situation reports to those who can respond. Humanity Road is active both Hurricane Harvey and Irma.  

Hurricane Harvey Situation Report and USCG Response

Hurricane Irma Situation Report can be found here: they are also partnering with the USCG.

Volunteer by following and retweeting on Twitter @HumanityRoad.

Volunteer sign-up and orientation are available online here.

Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) acts as a bridge between the traditional Humanitarian Responders and the OpenStreetMap (OSM) Community. They should be considered the primary point of contact for volunteer mapping from satellite imagery. HOT has worked extensively to secure access to satellite imagery for the creation of open data in OpenStreetMap in collaboration with the U.S. Government and humanitarian agencies.

They have been helping to clean up GIS data in response to Hurricane Harvey and are looking for volunteers to map for Hurricane Irma.

Follow them on Twitter @HotOSM.

This blog post is not exhaustive and we have created this open list of known online volunteer and data creation efforts intended to act as a community resource. Please share, add to, and edit this list as needed.