Responding to Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy, the Super Storm that slammed into the Eastern Seaboard early last week, left behind a wave of destruction in its path. Cities like New York, Atlantic City, Hoboken, Philadelphia and hundreds more are dealing with flooding, power outages,and destructive fires as a result. The cost of the damage left behind is estimated to be anywhere between $30 and $50 billion dollars. So the pressure to rebuild is dire and will take the cooperation of everyone working together, including residents, businesses and city staff. One shining example of a city that’s truly engaging with their community to do just this, is the City of Philadelphia.

Philadelphia made the decision to bring resources directly to residents 24/7 by implementing PublicStuff to build and launch their Philly311 app on September 13th, 2012. Utilizing Philly311 has enabled the City of Philadelphia to automate 311 service requests, increase access to city hall and improve the service delivery process. During Hurricane Sandy, Mayor Nutter and City Staff were even further committed to bringing tools, resources and news directly to residents by implementing a Hurricane FAQ widget within Philly311 to list information related to the storm. Officials then directed the media as well as residents to utilize the Philly311 app as part of their regular hurricane preparations. In addition to directing people to download app, city officials used Twitter to spread awareness, news and information on the storm. In short, Philadelphia made City Hall completely accessible and remained responsive to citizens needs, questions and concerns during a particularly difficult and challenging time.

The results were astounding. On Monday, October 29th, the day the hurricane was scheduled to make landfall, Philly311 was the 33rd most downloaded app (out of millions!) in the entire iTunes app store, empowering over 7,000 residents in total with the ability to respond to Hurricane Sandy and report damage immediately. Just one week after the storm, the city received over 743 service requests through the PublicStuff system. Some of the more popular requests being reported have involved fallen trees, damaged buildings and power outages. Residents are also using the commenting and photo submission features to update one another on concerning issues, spread awareness and add important details for city staff to close out requests.

While it still may take time to close out large and more complicated issues related to the storm, the ability for Philadelphia residents and businesses to document the damage left behind is already helping to extend the outreach and efforts of city staff. Furthermore, the geo-locating and photo mapping technology may even help to expedite federal aid and services vital to rebuilding efforts.

Philadelphia is truly a great example of how cities can utilize technology to empower residents, further resources and bring communities together during times of need. Using technology to bridge the gap between residents and city services are vital to rebuilding efforts. At PublicStuff, we understand that this is a trying time for many, as a result, we are donating all of our service request tools to residents and governments impacted by the storm. After all, this is why we exist. We are here to help improve communities and civic involvement for the betterment of everyone. We hope that by donating our services, we can help all communities impacted by Sandy to recover swiftly and safely.

It’s easy to get started. Residents may begin by downloading the app to report service needs in their area. City staff may also implement the backend system to manage workflow steps and document damage immediately by visiting our donation page.

For even more information and details, please email us at [email protected] and we’ll be happy to set you up.

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