November 15, 2012 By Hilton Collins
SeeClickFix has long allowed citizens to report 311 issues online, and the company is now helping in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Weeks after the storm touched ground, citizens are still dealing with housing displacement and power outages.
The company empowers citizens in various ways. Employees provide a forum for people to report issues like downed trees, blackouts and clogged storm drains, and they partner with local websites like the Huffington Post to embed reporting widgets in web pages, such as the one below.
Doing so is reducing 911 call volume and helping afflicted taxpayers take personal clean-up and remediation efforts into their own hands.
“By Sunday, we had most of our existing media partners with storm widgets on their websites, helping to gather that data,” said SeeClickFix Co-Founder Ben Berkowitz. Other partners include local NBC stations. “IT was really helping to get this citizen reporting channel out to the public in a very mainstream way.”
The company also coordinates volunteer efforts between citizens and government. More than 80 volunteers use the technology to coordinate clean-up activity in Crisfield, Md. According to Berkowitz, they’ve reported on at least 200 issues there and have banded together to fix them themselves. SeeClickFix offers their software to participating entities for free for disaster relief purposes.
Residents document issues on SeeClickFix and label homes in need as “white towel” homes, allowing FEMA to assist them more easily.
“When FEMA saw that Crisfield was using the application for enabling volunteers and collecting data, they said, ‘Well, why don’t you use it to document these white towel homes and help report where people need assistance,’” Berkowitz said.
It’s hard for Berkowitz to say how long taxpayers and governments will use SeeClickFix for these purposes, but he estimates that it may be for some time. Several issues have been documented in an animated map, shown below. “As long as there are clean-up efforts, we’re going to be involved,” he said.
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