NYC, nonprofits try crowdsourcing storm damage

NYC has set up a website for residents to submit damage reports for the city from Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene. A number of non-profits have teamed up for a similar initiative along the entire East Coast.

So far the NYC map mostly consists of reports and photos of trees knocked down, along with a few power outage and road closure reports. As a result it’s not particularly useful to most residents unless you happen to live nearby some of the damage reported. It’s a good idea though, especially if the city uses it to help respond to damage.

On the NYC Severe Weather site the city says, “Let New York City and fellow New Yorkers know about weather conditions and service disruptions in your neighborhood. Share map points, photos, videos, and comments about Hurricane Irene. This is an information sharing site. NYC will not take action with regards to any posts, but will use the information to inform the City’s response to the hurricane. Because conditions are constantly changing during a storm, NYC will not verify the accuracy of these reports. To submit a formal service request to NYC, use 311. For emergency assistance, call 911.”

You can see the NYC crowdsourced map and info here, as well as submit reports yourself.

Another crowdsourced map, this one for the entire East Coast, was pulled together “to help ordinary people help themselves” by a group including CrisisCommons, CrisisMappers, Geeks without Bounds, GIS Corps, Humanity Road, Info 4 Disasters, Standby Task Force Volunteers, Tethr and Ushahidi. Their map has received more submissions but because it’s covering such a large area.

This is a great way to use the web in storms such as these and I’m frankly surprised more municipalities haven’t tried doing so. Media sites have been doing this for years during storms, especially in local areas, although generally using more rudimentary tools such as message boards, blogs and email.

This format works much better but to be really successful they need to be publicized more, in advance of the storm.