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  • Translator: Timothy Covell Reviewer: Morton Bast

  • (Video) Newscaster: There's a large path of destruction here in town.

  • ... pulling trees from the ground, shattering windows,

  • taking the roofs off of homes ...

  • Caitria O'Neill: That was me

  • in front of our house in Monson, Massachusetts last June.

  • After an EF3 tornado ripped straight through our town

  • and took parts of our roof off,

  • I decided to stay in Massachusetts,

  • instead of pursuing the master's program

  • I had moved my boxes home that afternoon for.

  • Morgan O'Neill: So, on June 1, we weren't disaster experts,

  • but on June 3, we started faking it.

  • This experience changed our lives,

  • and now we're trying to change the experience.

  • CO: So, tornadoes don't happen in Massachusetts,

  • and I was cleverly standing in the front yard when one came over the hill.

  • After a lamppost flew by, my family and I sprinted into the basement.

  • Trees were thrown against the house, the windows exploded.

  • When we finally got out the back door,

  • transformers were burning in the street.

  • MO: I was here in Boston.

  • I'm a PhD student at MIT,

  • and I happen to study atmospheric science.

  • Actually, it gets weirder --

  • I was in the museum of science at the time the tornado hit,

  • playing with the tornado display --

  • (Laughter)

  • so I missed her call.

  • I get a call from Caitria, hear the news, and start tracking the radar online

  • to call the family back when another supercell was forming in their area.

  • I drove home late that night with batteries and ice.

  • We live across the street from a historic church

  • that had lost its very iconic steeple in the storm.

  • It had become a community gathering place overnight.

  • The town hall and the police department had also suffered direct hits,

  • and so people wanting to help or needing information went to the church.

  • CO: We walked to the church because we heard they had hot meals,

  • but when we arrived, we found problems.

  • There were a couple large, sweaty men with chainsaws

  • standing in the center of the church, but nobody knew where to send them

  • because no one knew the extent of the damage yet.

  • As we watched, they became frustrated and left

  • to go find somebody to help on their own.

  • MO: So we started organizing. Why? It had to be done.

  • We found Pastor Bob and offered to give the response some infrastructure.

  • And then, armed with just two laptops and one air card,

  • we built a recovery machine.

  • (Applause)

  • CO: That was a tornado, and everyone's heading to the church

  • to drop things off and volunteer.

  • MO: Everyone's donating clothing.

  • We should inventory the donations piling up here.

  • CO: And we need a hotline. Can you make a Google Voice number?

  • MO: Sure. And we need to tell people what not to bring.

  • I'll make a Facebook account. Can you print flyers?

  • CO: Yeah, but we don't even know what houses are accepting help.

  • We need to canvas and send out volunteers.

  • MO: We need to tell people what not to bring.

  • Hey, there's a news truck. I'll tell them.

  • CO: You got my number off the news? We don't need more freezers!

  • (Together) MO: Insurance won't cover it? CO: Juice boxes coming in an hour?

  • Together: Someone get me Post-its!

  • (Laughter)

  • CO: And then the rest of the community figured out that we had answers.

  • MO: I can donate three water heaters, but someone needs to come pick them up.

  • CO: My car is in my living room!

  • MO: My boyscout troop would like to rebuild 12 mailboxes.

  • CO: My puppy is missing and insurance doesn't cover chimneys.

  • MO: My church group of 50 would like housing and meals for a week

  • while we repair properties.

  • CO: You sent me to that place on Washington Street yesterday,

  • and now I'm covered in poison ivy.

  • (Laughter)

  • So this is what filled our days.

  • We had to learn how to answer questions quickly

  • and to solve problems in a minute or less;

  • otherwise, something more urgent would come up,

  • and it wouldn't get done.

  • MO: We didn't get our authority from the board of selectmen

  • or the emergency management director or the United Way.

  • We just started answering questions and making decisions

  • because someone -- anyone -- had to.

  • And why not me? I'm a campaign organizer.

  • I'm good at Facebook.

  • And there's two of me.

  • (Laughter)

  • CO: The point is, if there's a flood or a fire or a hurricane,

  • you, or somebody like you,

  • are going to step up and start organizing things.

  • The other point is that it is hard.

  • MO: Lying on the ground after another 17-hour day,

  • Caitria and I would empty our pockets

  • and try to place dozens of scraps of paper into context --

  • all bits of information that had to be remembered and matched

  • in order to help someone.

  • After another day and a shower at the shelter,

  • we realized it shouldn't be this hard.

  • CO: In a country like ours where we breathe Wi-Fi,

  • leveraging technology for a faster recovery should be a no-brainer.

  • Systems like the ones that we were creating on the fly

  • could exist ahead of time.

  • And if some community member is in this organizing position

  • in every area after every disaster,

  • these tools should exist.

  • MO: So, we decided to build them:

  • a recovery in a box, something that could be deployed after every disaster

  • by any local organizer.

  • CO: I decided to stay in the country, give up the master's in Moscow

  • and to work full-time to make this happen.

  • In the course of the past year,

  • we've become experts in the field of community-powered disaster recovery.

  • And there are three main problems that we've observed

  • with the way things work currently.

  • MO: The tools.

  • Large aid organizations are exceptional at bringing massive resources to bear

  • after a disaster,

  • but they often fulfill very specific missions, and then they leave.

  • This leaves local residents to deal with the thousands of spontaneous volunteers,

  • thousands of donations,

  • and all with no training and no tools.

  • So they use Post-its or Excel or Facebook.

  • But none of these tools allow you to value high-priority information

  • amidst all of the photos and well-wishes.

  • CO: The timing.

  • Disaster relief is essentially a backwards political campaign.

  • In a political campaign, you start with no interest

  • and no capacity to turn that into action.

  • You build both gradually,

  • until a moment of peak mobilization at the time of the election.

  • In a disaster, however, you start with all of the interest

  • and none of the capacity.

  • And you've only got about seven days

  • to capture 50 percent of all of the Web searches that will ever be made

  • to help your area.

  • Then some sporting event happens,

  • and you've got only the resources that you've collected thus far

  • to meet the next five years of recovery needs.

  • This is the slide for Katrina.

  • This is the curve for Joplin.

  • And this is the curve for the Dallas tornadoes in April,

  • where we deployed software.

  • There's a gap here.

  • Affected households have to wait for the insurance adjuster to visit

  • before they can start accepting help on their properties.

  • And you've only got about four days of interest in Dallas.

  • MO: Data.

  • Data is inherently unsexy,

  • but it can jump-start an area's recovery.

  • FEMA and the state will pay 85 percent of the cost

  • of a federally-declared disaster,

  • leaving the town to pay the last 15 percent of the bill.

  • Now that expense can be huge,

  • but if the town can mobilize X amount of volunteers for Y hours,

  • the dollar value of that labor used goes toward the town's contribution.

  • But who knows that?

  • Now try to imagine the sinking feeling you get

  • when you've just sent out 2,000 volunteers and you can't prove it.

  • CO: These are three problems with a common solution.

  • If we can get the right tools at the right time

  • to the people who will inevitably step up

  • and start putting their communities back together,

  • we can create new standards in disaster recovery.

  • MO: We needed canvasing tools, donations databasing,

  • needs reporting, remote volunteer access,

  • all in an easy-to-use website.

  • CO: And we needed help.

  • Alvin, our software engineer and co-founder, has built these tools.

  • Chris and Bill have volunteered their time to use operations and partnerships.

  • And we've been flying into disaster areas since this past January,

  • setting up software, training residents

  • and licensing the software to areas that are preparing for disasters.

  • MO: One of our first launches was after the Dallas tornadoes

  • this past April.

  • We flew into a town that had a static, outdated website

  • and a frenetic Facebook feed, trying to structure the response,

  • and we launched our platform.

  • All of the interest came in the first four days,

  • but by the time they lost the news cycle,

  • that's when the needs came in,

  • yet they had this massive resource of what people were able to give

  • and they've been able to meet the needs of their residents.

  • CO: So it's working, but it could be better.

  • Emergency preparedness is a big deal in disaster recovery

  • because it makes towns safer and more resilient.

  • Imagine if we could have these systems ready to go in a place

  • before a disaster.

  • So that's what we're working on.

  • We're working on getting the software to places so people expect it,

  • so people know how to use it

  • and so it can be filled ahead of time

  • with that micro-information that drives recovery.

  • MO: It's not rocket science.

  • These tools are obvious and people want them.

  • In our hometown, we trained a half-dozen residents

  • to run these Web tools on their own,

  • because Caitria and I live here, in Boston.

  • They took to it immediately, and now they are forces of nature.

  • There are over three volunteer groups working almost every day,

  • and have been since June 1 of last year,

  • to make sure these residents get what they need and get back in their homes.

  • They have hotlines and spreadsheets and data.

  • CO: And that makes a difference.

  • June 1 this year marked the one-year anniversary of the Monson tornado,

  • and our community's never been more connected or more empowered.

  • We've been able to see the same transformation in Texas and in Alabama.

  • Because it doesn't take Harvard or MIT

  • to fly in and fix problems after a disaster;

  • it takes a local.

  • No matter how good an aid organization is at what they do,

  • they eventually have to go home.

  • But if you give locals the tools,

  • if you show them what they can do to recover,

  • they become experts.

  • (Applause)

  • MO: All right. Let's go.

  • (Applause)

Translator: Timothy Covell Reviewer: Morton Bast

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B1 US TED disaster recovery tornado town church

【TED】Caitria + Morgan O'Neill: How to step up in the face of disaster (Caitria and Morgan O'Neill: How to step up in the face of disaster)

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    Zenn posted on 2017/08/31
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