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After Oklahoma Disaster, Neighbors Look Online for Ways To Help

BY Sam Roudman | Tuesday, May 21 2013

Tim McCoy runs the Riddle Plant Farm in Sand Springs, Okla., the heart of Tornado Alley. When a massive twister ripped through Moore, Oklahoma yesterday afternoon, leveling neighborhoods and killing more than 20, McCoy went to his storm cellar.

“After going home and seeing the devastation that’s when we knew that we could step up and help,” he says.

So “first thing this morning,” McCoy and his coworkers set out to do just that. They rented a moving truck and set out to fill it with canned goods, medical supplies, pet food, gloves, diapers, and clothes. The plan is to drive it the hour and a half to Moore tonight after the truck is filled with donations, and deliver it to a Red Cross donation center.

“There’s a lot of neighbors and customers that want to give something but they don’t know how,” says McCoy, “when you say you have a giant truck and you want to fill it that’s a good challenge.”

To solicit donations McCoy published a post on the plant farm's website, but also posted and promoted the donation drive on their Facebook page, and to Facebook groups like this one, dedicated to disaster relief for Moore.

McCoy says the aid drive’s success so far is “definitely due to Facebook.” After a couple hours, he says the truck is a quarter full. He expects that when people get off work in the evening, the truck will fill up completely.

In echoes of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast, social media sites and small business websites are full of offers of help, questions about missing pets and loved ones, and evidence that neighbors are willing to reach out to help one another in a disaster. On a single Facebook group, there's a Mexican restaurant in Oklahoma City promising free meals to first responders or people hit by the tornado; a mother a few hours' drive from Moore offering to open her door for children who might need a place to stay; a resident sharing a picture of a found dog and contact information for the owner to get in touch.

There are also more formal ways to help, or ask for help, online. Here are a few of them:

Recovers is a tool that helps small towns coordinate relief efforts between agencies. They’ve set up a site for Moore, and has a couple staff members on the ground to help groups coordinate volunteer efforts. Ironically, Recovers CEO Caitria O’Neill was interviewed for an article in the Moore American about disaster relief technology just last week.

Google has set up a crisis response map that provides information on shelters, transportation, and weather.

The Red Cross has a tool to find people called Safe and Well. It provides a place for survivors to securely report their safety, and for family members to search for them.

Of course, it’s not only humans that need to be located. Reddit’s MISSINGPETSINMOORE thread contains photos and location info for pets both lost and found since yesterday.

For those looking for a secure way to donate, the organization Six Degrees has set up a donation page that sends funds to the Red Cross, Salvation Army or Feeding America. The Red Cross has set up donation by text message. Text "REDCROSS" to 90999, and you’ll donate $10.