Katrina – Disaster Relief – The Media and the Web 2.0

I have been out of the country the last week. Watching CNN, reading websites and my email, trying to keep up with the
disaster that was escalating in the Gulf Coast. While I was gone, I had responded to an email request for any extra
merchandise thatMavs might have for those staying in Dallas hotels and we sent boxes full of merchandise to
help.

I got back last night, and while switching between Fox News, MSNBC and CNN, I tried to read the FEMA, Red Cross
and Salvation Army websites to get a feel for where I could contribute in addition to writing a check.

After reading story after story about evacuees and their needs, I put together my own personal clothing drive
where I collected mostly business attire, shirts, shoes, ties, pants, 75 pct of which was brand new. All told there
was probably 50k dollars worth of clothing that I piled into the back of a truck.

Ihad my assistant try calling the Red Cross and Salvation Army, but there was no answer from their local
offices. I thought that was curious. Not even an answeringmachine messagedirecting me to a website.
Sowe located awebsite that listed various assistance programs going on, including local collection
points. So I took off forthe collection spot at Texas Stadium.

It was just me. Low key. Trying to help. No media. Just trying to the right thing. I got to Texas Stadium and
waited as cars inched toward the parking lot entrance.

As I sat there, I watched as probably 90 pct of the many cars in front of me were not entering, but instead were
driving away. As I got close enough, I could see hand written signs saying “We are not accepting any clothes or
household items”. I got to the front of the line. The volunteer confirmed just that. No clothes.

Undeterred, I drove off to the Salvation Army collection point not far away.

The line of cars was far shorter, but the same scenario, almost every car was pulling forward, doing a U Turn and
driving off. This time I asked the volunteer if there were any sites that were collecting clothes. Nope. Not a single
one.

WasI too late?

When I got back home I immediately jumped to the web and started looking through the
RedCross,
FEMA and Salvation
Army
sites. There it was. Red Cross and the Salvation Army both said thesame line (Fema didnt have a
reference I could find). We don’t accept In Kind donations or physical items. The cost to store and
distribute these items is prohibitive. Although the Salvation Army did say that we should still continue to donate
clothing, bric a brac and furniture to the Salvation Army for their ongoing programs. I guess their on going
programs were backlogged as well.

It’s my fault for not reading and confirming what they were looking for. But what about all the other
people that were driving away from the collection points? Was it their fault too? Or was what we hada failure
to communicate?

Count me among those who think that among the mistakes made along the way was the horrible use of the media and
internet by the aid organizations.

As I write this, Fox News is repeating a tape of volunteers delivering canned goods and other items to evacuees.
Right now Fox News is liveshowing DVDs that have been sent. Items that both the Red Cross and Salvation
Army say you should not bring or send or deliver.

Should the Red Cross and Salvation Army among other organizations expect that everyone with a desire to help will
read through their websites to confirm what and where to send items? Or should they have anticipated that Americans,
with our propensity to help those in need, wouldtryto help in the only way they are able?
Thatthey at bestwould glance at the their organization home pages.

The Red Cross,rather than showing Rev. Jessa Jackson offers words of encouragement and Good to be Safe, a
survivor tale as the top two items, and pictures that take up valuable real estate on their homepage, shouldn’t they
highlight actions items? How to give and get help? And leave the wonderful success stories for the linked pages? The
Salvation Army homepage did the same thing.

Beyond the website, shouldn’t there have been a coordinated effort through the media to educate all of us on how
to help?

I know it’s easy to criticize and find mistakes. I know that in a situation like this, perfection is never ever
the outcome. However, given the resources that are required and will be required to help all of the unfortunate
people who have lost so much. Isn’t it reasonable to think that many people will rush to offer “in kind” donations
and that our biggest aid organizations should ask the media to educate us why they can not accept such donations and
direct us to those organizations that can accept them or be very clear that only money can be accepted.

I am curious if there was a coordinated media effort among aid organizations, or was it every one for itself. A
battle for donations? I don’t have the answer.

Again, it’s so easy to monday morning quarterback. I don’t think anyone really expected the devastation and loss
of life that occured. Yet all of this could happen again. All of this will happen again, if not in the Gulf Coast,
somewhere in our country. Nature has a way of matching coincidence and crisis.

Maybe it’s not my place to make suggestions. Maybe they have thought all these things through, they exist and I
just haven’t found them or I missed them. But then again, maybe this may help.

FEMA needs to realize that we are a media centric culture. We look for information wherever we can find it. The
wider spread the communication, the more people will receive it and the more assistance, of the type that is needed,
can be offered. I can only speculate, but based on what I saw today, which I’m sure was repeated in cities around the
country, but millions, if not tens of millions of dollars in timely support was lost because people,
includingme were uninformed.

Once there is time available, whether it’s weeks, months or years, FEMA needs to organize a disaster information
network of websites, phone numbers, Txt messages ping numbers and media outlets. When FEMA declares an
emergency,then every DMA impacted, or that could be a source of aid, the network would kick in.

Jeff Jarvis does a great job in his blog encouraging a coordinated
effort on the web to help those impacted by a disaster find information. WhatI detail below is geared
towardsgetting information in different ways to those who need it.

1.I would set up a Common Short Code wireless number. Common Short Codes are the short phone numbers you see
advertised for things like voting on American Idol that allow you to text message the number and get a response and
reply to it. Why should this be done? Because txt messages would reduce the inevitable stress on the wireless phone
system and would increase the ability ofpeople who are under duress and have their cellphones or PDAs to send
and receive information. That information could then be parsed and posted or reported whether through a website
or delivered per the instructions of the txt message. (ie, please call 214-555-2345 and let them know I am at this
location)

Update Sept 6th

Per a WSJ article today, a formerFCC Task Force Member is quoted as saying that cellular companies should
encourage their users to use txt messaging and phone email. That a 12 line email or txt message takes as much
bandwidth as only 1 second of voice. In fact txt messaging was one of the few ways many could make any contact last
week

2. Rather than distributing a banner ad that encourages people to donate money, the banner ad should be rich media
and contain options and information in addition to a link to a website. In addition to the banner, FEMA.gov should
also offer javascript and a konfabulator type widget that offers a scroll/crawl of information as well as
anRSS feeds that websites can addthat show ongoing updates about how to help, where to help and current
information about the event.

3. Just as we have Amber Alerts that are shared among media, FEMA should have the ability to distribute
information through local stations AND through media outlets, such as cable and satellite news networks, that are
part of their network that allow FEMA to distribute a shortvideo alert, in a format similar to an Amber Alert,
and also tofeed a crawl that the networks incorporate into theirever present crawls they all use now.

4. New technology allows the caller-ring
tones
to be customized. Its not widely available yet, nor is it available on all networks, but it will be. I’m
sure if FEMA asked the carriers to add it to emergency numbers, it will happen sooner.

Calls to traditional emergency numbers should include pro active information in the ring. Rather than hearing our
traditional telephone ring, particularly at times when there may not be an answer, if and when the technology is up
to the task (I’m sure the wireless carriers can answer this), a message needs to be recorded, and changed to reflect
the status of the event as often as necessary.

I know there are many other things that could be suggested, but I think these things could improve
thecommunications that are critical to increasing the prevention, survival, recovery and support that
arecriticalin times of crisis.

I know I’m putting myself out there to be criticized. That’s the way it goes. That’s what this blog is for, to
share experiences and ideas. The comments are there so you can share your response and educate me.

89 thoughts on “Katrina – Disaster Relief – The Media and the Web 2.0

  1. If there was a way to provide emergency communications in the aftermath of a disaster, would anyone really be interested? During the devastating fires in Arizona and Southern Cal, and Hurricane Katrina I have tried every avenue I know to deliver a mobile, satellite, and IP based communications solution to locally effected areas. I have two mobile and fully automated satellite uplinks sitting near Dallas, TX that are ready for deployment to LA, MS, AL. These uplinks are purely for internet based communications. The uplinks consist of commercial grade hardware and commercial grade bandwidth. Plug in an off the shelf router and you have a small LAN capable of providing VoIP, LIVE and on demand audio/webcasts. These units are essentially internet versions of TV and radio satellite trucks. Our dishes can even be mounted on a 4X4 vehicles or crated for air delivery to remote areas (within the continental U.S.)The uplinks are very user friendly and relativly inexpensive to operate. Three years of research and development (and my life savings)have gone into this communications solution. When not in emergency use the uplinks can be used to webcast community events, sporting, events, … Not only do I have this solution but I believe I have a solid idea for the effective delivery of the solution. If anyone is interested in discussing this further, please let me know.

    Thanks

    Comment by kevin whitaker -

  2. Mark, same problem with donations here in Florida. We saw Hurricane Katrina 5 days before it hit New Orleans; it was a bad storm here with lots of flooding and 11 casualties.
    The Friday before the hurricane hit, I contacted the main search engines asking them to promote hurricane evacuation tips and advice. I even create a Google group with info and link to my site with suggestions. I called FEMA, etc. FEMA was not thinking about those with fewer resources.

    I understand that if a family did not have a car, there is a good chance that they did not have access to the Web before the hurricane either, but why didn’t the government do more? To see the pictures of the school buses sitting there and then to have the mayor say that they could not get people out because they did not have buses? Very frustrating. And if there was a problem with the floods on Monday afternoon, why didn’t the government inform people Monday night? Yes, I know people did not have power and TV, but people went to bed Monday without water in their homes. If this is how FEMA reacts to something that had at least a five-day warning, can you image the problem of a major earthquake in the Bay area?

    Comment by Julio -

  3. Mark,

    Just want to say that i experience the same problem. I am up in minneapolis and when i got word that about 5000 evacuee might come to Minnesota, I packed up a few boxes of clothes and tried to find out where i could drop them off. Got the same response from salvation army as you. I contacted local TV shows and radios and 5 days later found out that the Vikings had a clothing drive. I don’t know how the Vikings will get it to the people who need it but I just want to tell that it is far from easy on this end. Communication is at its worse, too much redundant information, and some terrible management.

    Comment by Vik -

  4. One of the gaping holes in the modern world is poor communication of basic information. Or, to be more precise, poor prioritization of communication. Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to find street numbers on most buildings, for example? Website designers who are hired to interface with the public need to put themselves in the shoes of the typical person who visits the website. The visitor doesn’t want to take lots of time searching around or reading fluff. What does the typical visitor need to know in order to make it easy for him to do what he wants to do without having to waste time? The website should be deisgned with this in mind. As an aside, the Red Cross apparently has such rigid rules that they’ve been hampering their own relief efforts. People wanting to do part-time volunteer work are turned away, because only full-time volunteers are acceptable under ARC policy. A group of hurricane survivors who were being comfortably sheltered in a church were told that if they wanted to receive ARC assitance, they had to relocate to an ARC-approved shelter, which the church wasn’t. These people said “OK”, and were bussed to a warehouse filled with side-by-side cots, with inadequate sanitation and zero privacy, but at least it was Red-Cross Approved.

    Comment by N. W. Clayton -

  5. Mark- no offense, but IMHO sometime you miss the mark (no pun), and sometimes you get near the mark, but this time YOU HIT IT ON THE HEAD. It amazes me how many blogs describe people trying to help but FEMA or even the ARC won’t let them.
    p.s.- Why is it that the federal govt just learned about SMS txt msgs? R there no govt employees w/ teenage kids?

    Comment by Ray Watson -

  6. This hurricane brought a lot of things to light, but it seems the most obvious is that we are so busy living and working that we are unprepared for any type of disaster, especially a huge freakin’ disaster – even when we have a little warning!

    Lots of good suggestions here. I think a lot of good things are going to come out of this and in the future America will be more prepared for a disaster.

    Comment by Eddo -

  7. MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) have been a lifesaver in the NOLA disaster. I noticed that, stamped on every box and every pack, it says that these MREs cannot be sold. I understand that, but why are these MREs not available to buy? If they are cheap enough to give away by the millions in a disaster, why should Americans not be able to purchase these meals for an emergency situation like this disaster?

    One can purchase MREs that are called Camping food, or Hiking food, but the cost is relatively high and are only sold by a very few companies. If the government wants us to be prepared for an emergency, why not make that possible? You should be able to buy MREs anywhere, and cheaply! Do that now, and people won’t starve next time.

    Comment by Gary Miller -

  8. I thought it was interesting to see how some of your ideas actually were put into use later on. Regarding the way things were coordinated, you are right – it was confusing and made for many problems. It is scary to me that things were handled the way they were and I hope that we learn from this and move forward.

    Comment by Bruce -

  9. Mobile phones users in Katrina affected Area Codes,
    (especially prepay users) are demographically and geographically,
    out of minutes, have no airtime, on second batteries.
    The lucky have some capability to re-charge.

    Big Mobile Phone providers plan a release of phone cards at the Astrodome.
    It’s a media circus.

    Big Mobile Phone providers are proposing a limited number of methods
    to deal with a National Catastrophe impacting oil and food exports and imports.
    The oil reserves themselves are in and amongst this destruction in the salt domes.

    Old School, the phone companies could easily pump free minutes into all phones
    with the same programs they send you all that spam with.

    An immidiate and global distribution of FREE MINUTES and FREE AIRTIME
    to all phones in the Katrina devestated Area codes and Katrina evacuation routes
    must be implemented now. Out of minutes = no communication = disorganization

    Physical distribution of cards will create a fast and dangerous trade market.
    The people who distribute these cards could seed more volitility into this situation.
    The people distributing these cards in the long-term are in a dangerous physical situation.

    The people of this nation affected by National Security and National Disaster issues
    as a result of Hurricaine Katrina must have MANY to MANY communication NOW.

    Vendor locations for pre-pay are shut down,
    phone cards along evacuation routes are sold-out or in limited supply.
    These refugees don’t have, or cannot get to, prepay cash.

    Our phone service is so capitalized and compartmentalized,
    it seems very inneffective at this time compared to a wide open
    100% free phone system. And I’m not advocating a 100%
    free phone market of any sort, I just want you to think
    about the difference it would make and how close
    we can get to that, in the shortest amount of time.
    For the purposes of Katrina RESCUE and RELIEF.

    Pre-pay Mobile Phone user Market closely mimic those
    Americans victimized by Natural Disasters.
    They are prey to SCAMS and FRAUD.

    Young people with prepay ‘Virgin Mobile’ phones as well as
    the markets of Tracone, prepay markets, are not being afforded
    the opportunity to use their EMERGENCY COMMUNICATION DEVICES,
    especially in the long-term. These markets must be sustained
    with the Automatic scripting of free minutes pumped into the phones,
    globally with no regard for economic strata, race, etc..

    Again, the pre-pay Market is made up of the poor, elderly, infirm,
    handicapped, low and fixed income, children, etc …

    The phones are lifelines to order in the short and longterm.

    The FCC must require all phone companies to fill all phones in the
    area codes affected by Katrina, especially flooded New Orleans,
    with free minutes. This must be done globally without
    regard for race or economic class. The AUTOMATED scripting
    on Mobile phone service providers administrative computers to
    push free minutes and free airtime globally to all Mobile Phones in Katrina
    affected areas is the American thing to do. Push the free minutes
    to prepay and to CORPORATE customers as well. Give them to everyone,
    now. Let this place communicate and continue RESCUE, continue RELIEF,
    and continue to REBUILD in the longterm.

    Alltell.com is continuing to produce an organized, informed and effective
    response to Hurricaine Katrina Relief issues.

    http://www.alltell.com/corporate/media/0905hurricanerelief.html

    Other Mobile Phone Providers are thinking and acting, check their homepages.

    HERE ARE THE EMAILS for the FCC bigwigs,
    email them to get free minutes for Katrina devestated area codes –

    KJMWEB@fcc.gov
    Kathleen.Abernathy@fcc.gov
    Michael.Copps@fcc.gov
    Jonathan.Adelstein@fcc.gov

    Copy and paste those emails into the -TO- box of your email.

    I don’t want to attack the phone companies.
    I just want all of us to send some suggestions as to how they can help.
    Ask the Mobile Phone companies for what we need, free airtime,
    unemcumbered with their marketing schemes.

    Email the customer service departments of all the Mobile Phone
    companies you can think of. Gather their customer service EMAILS,
    their Media reps emails. Forward all of this.

    Check knowledgeable communities on the internet that address
    the needs of Katrina Victims and Refugees. Ask the phone companies
    for what we need, free airtime, unemcumbered with their marketing schemes.

    Ask the Mobile Phone companies to establish an account to
    DONATE FREE MINUTES from YOUR PLAN.
    Ask them to MATCH YOUR DONATION.

    Thus, any injured or incapacitated person with a phone, and any phone
    they might FIND that is working will get them through. Many to many
    communication.

    Auto location of the looters who hunker down can be facilitated,
    they can be saved also, rather than slaughtered.

    Additional resuce is enabled which is critical as resuce options
    continue to approache the point of no return for some stranded infirm, etc..

    People will come through the network.
    That’s what this is about right, people!

    Where there are discarded phones, their are babies, children,
    women and men. The phones need to have minutes.

    Guard dogs can hear phones dialing, ringing, etc..

    Guard electronics can sniff and locate the phones, as well as the
    ability of a Guard dog to smell a warm cell phone, the warm battery
    and it’s characteristic smell.

    These phones are lifelines and key to restoring order.

    A lot of young and elderly will die of dehydration in the next days.
    Refugees need to FIND THE RESOURCES, they need minutes.
    Many of them are lost, out of state, with no transportation.
    The Katrina refugees need free minutes and free airtime.
    Those needing rescue need those minutes.

    The automated and global scripting of a push of free minutes to all cell phones
    will most importantly transcend the racial and class structures.

    This is DISASTER RELIEF and should never
    approach the line over which NATURAL DISASTER PROFITEERING
    is approached, lonterm or shorterm, by any company.

    Jockying for market position at the demise of the American People,
    will be observed if it is present.

    Schemes to give out free phones to lock in desparate customers in the
    months ahead are PUTRID. Schemes to get customer database information
    for Phone Marketing departments is off limits here.

    Keep it on the up and up, script the automated push of the free minutes
    to all Mobile Phones in the Katrina devestated area codes and evacuation routes,
    gloabally. Now.

    Comment by Pat Jack -

  10. The Salvation Army & Red Cross were very clear requesting cash donations only for Katrina victim assistance. In the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, I volunteered for the Red Cross at a distribution center they set up in West Palm Beach, sorting donations of food & supplies for the victims in Dade County. Clothing was dumped in a huge pile outside on the ground, because there was so much of it… the clothing was often sent in a dirty condition, literally filthy from lack of washing. It was interesting to see a mink coat in the pile that was intended for victims located in hot, steamy South Florida. Canned goods were sent that were rusted and bulging. Cash is great; in-kind donations are a problem to deal with in the immediate aftermath.

    Comment by Arletha McDanal -

  11. I hear a lot of talk about the Red Cross. I’d like to just throw out a fact that might be interesting. http://www.charitynavigator.org/,
    FYE (fiscal year ending) 06/2004
    Marsha Evans
    President, CEO
    Compensation: $450,008

    Comment by Ryan -

  12. RE: Post 51..

    There are a tons of brilliant people in Government. But none of them run for office. The big smile, baby kissing ones do. And their political agendas are obviously more important than projects that produce results.

    Comment by PSC -

  13. This entry just confirms my belief that thinking people do not go into government. Unfortunately the same can be said for NGOs (Non-government organizations) too. Sad state of affairs.

    Comment by Nicky -

  14. Number 1 and 2 have good points..

    I would suspect that the heads of Red Cross / FEMA etc.. make a substantial amount of money and are “Good ol’ boys” not leaders and motivators.. That’s a guess, no research done on that

    Here’s a thought since we’re talking preventative measures..

    Wouldn’t census data identify the disabled, elderly and poor.. Then the Mayor could have gotten off his.. you know … and helped evacuate PRIOR to the storm. Or at least have a targeted approach for identifying the most needed rescues?

    The Mayor of N.O. needs to take some blame instead of blaming Bush and the Gov.

    One of the response posts mentions that the non-profit organizations aren’t technically prepared for these situations. Yet, they have the time to promote how they are helping VS. informing us how to help.

    Lastly, The government isn’t one company. Sales and Marketing do not talk to the warehouse. Individual agencies do not communicate with each other nor do they know how. So re-allocating monies from other legislation is not going to happen. That would be too logical for Government to pull off.

    Comment by PSC -

  15. Mark.. i’m not bush bashing so please take this the right way… when are you running for president? You have some very clear thoughts and valuble advice.. keep up the good thinking!

    Comment by paisley -

  16. I agree with Walter (post 45) and I would also say that in this case we should “shoot the messenger”. Doesn’t the major media make a living reporting disasters? Isn’t that the whole reason TV is such a good medium? TV News programs are perfect when there is live footage to be shot and witnesses or authorities to be interviewed.

    So isn’t obvious that the where, when and how to help is just as much part of the story as the disaster and carnage shots? Or is it that journalism takes a back seat to ratings and ad revenue?

    Comment by Russ Martin -

  17. Mark,

    Your comments and suggestions are well founded and I suspect you realize the breakdown in communication goes way beyond that of the experience you describe. I live in a town of 6,000 east of Dallas where on Saturday, we were expecting 300 evacuees. Local citizens did an outstanding job of collecting donations, sorting and organizing items and just generally getting prepared what was expected to be five or six bus loads of newcomers to our community.

    However, while dozens and dozens of people worked, soon we just waited. No buses arrived. Finally on Saturday, one bus, approximately 50 people, arrived. Still no word when to expect more. Volunteers waited on Sunday and Monday, still no buses, still no communication.

    The school district had a large community dinner planned. ISD administrators, teachers and board members were going to host the dinner for the 200-300 evacuees that were expected and welcome to our community and let them know that we cared and would do whatever we could to provide for them. That was to be Monday evening, the day before many would be enrolling in their new school. Still no buses. The dinner was cancelled late Monday afternoon.

    I know what I am describing is not unique. There are stories of no communication among FEMA and the authorities in Louisiana with the city of Dallas. Why should we be surprised the individual volunteer isnt informed what to do when the highest level of government is not effectively communicating?

    It is not amazing that the perfect storm hit the most vulnerable location on American shores and reeked havoc. It is amazing that in this age of information, that governmental authorities at all levels failed miserably in communicating with each other and the populace.

    Comment by Mike Stone -

  18. Mark,

    This situation has been a very harsh reality check for many and I’m very happy at the response the individual persons have made, but yet am very disappointed at the response at the federal and governmental levels.

    The amount of outreach by people, both vocal and physical has been encouraging. It is easy for people to preach, to say that this or that should happen and yet stand back and do nothing about it, but in the aftermath of this disaster, I’ve seen and experienced may wonderful stories of people helping both within and out of their means.

    However, the fact that the government has refused help from all outside countries, and sometimes even from organizations within their own country is inexcusable. Generous donations from Qatar, Cuba, Colombia and many other countries that normally would not step forward to help the US have been refused as well as donations from partner countries. This is no time for the US government to be proud; too proud to accept help.

    Like you, and countless others, I am trying to do as much as I personally can to help. However, being Canadian I’m finding this very difficult. Our attempts at donation have fallen on deft ears and it is frustrating.

    I commend those who are helping and wish them the best of luck. If it weren’t for the individual help received, this grim situation would be much worse.

    Comment by Stephen -

  19. Mark,

    There are so many odd things about the nation’s hurricane response and the relief work, it just grinds on the brain. While it is clear that FEMA is not up to the task, any reasonable person wants to know why they aren’t. It’s too bad that many politicians have stepped in with easy blame and excuses. The void of knowledge is just increased by these weasels.

    I had always thought that emergency services involved lots of civilian and volunteer agencies, not just a select few. What happened to the ham radio folks to provide good communication? Where is the Civil Air Patrol? Where is the Georgia State Militia? Why are the agencies too overwhelmed to organize and distribute material goods when there are 10,000 refugees willing to help do that? I guess if you can’t organize yourself, it’s tough to lead.

    I just heard the FEMA director of Missippi explain that they couldn’t go into the devastated areas of the state because it would drain the scarce supplies of gasoline in hard-hit areas. So FEMA can’t bring their own fuel and some relief for people? What’s with that?

    Thanks for bringing some light to a sad situation. We can only hope to do better next time.

    Comment by Walter Lounsbery -

  20. Mark,

    We’ve got a wiki set up to start piecing together the various Recovery 2.0 initiatives at http://www.4setup.com . Jeff Jarvis will be pointing recovery2.com and recovery2.org to it soon. NZ Bear is also working on it – we’d like to get all interested people aware of it and coordinating with each other as soon as possible.

    Thanks,
    Greg Burton

    Comment by Greg Burton -

  21. Nice work Mark. More than I could have expected. But you realize that for every major disastor, there are millions that occur every day, all over the world. How many are in your “backyard”?

    Comment by Jim -

  22. Mark:

    One more “been there, done that.” After the 1989 San Francisco earthquake, one of the most reliable communication systems into the area was CompuServe email and our chat service, “CB” (because we ran our own commercial-quality network at the time). We set up bulletin boards to help family members find each other, and some of our members were acting as online “ham operators,” relaying messages from folks in the Bay Area to concerned family and friends elsewhere in the world. We received recognition for our service, and were proud to have helped.

    FEMA should be run by the Pentagon. During the Cold War, had a Soviet task force come up the Gulf of Mexico and set a course directly at New Orleans, we would have pulled out the “Soviets attack from the Gulf” plan and initiated all kinds of action. No Soviet ship would have been allowed to get within striking range of New Orleans because it would have been detected and “discouraged” well out at sea.

    I don’t mean to imply that it is technically possible to defeat a hurricane. The point is that you get out ahead of the situation when you know it’s coming. In this case, it took four days to get Gen Honore and his troops into New Orleans. The trouble was, that no one ordered him to go until AFTER the hurricane hit (H-Day). He arrived in force on H+4. That’s pretty damned responsive for a deployment in force considering the men, materiel and transportation he had to get organized and to New Orleans. It would have been a lot better if he had been told to get prepared on H-minus-4 thought, right?

    The Mayor of New Orleans blew it. No one else should have been more acutely aware of the risk or of the need for planning. He simply let this be a less important agenda item than all the real problems facing his city. I understand how that happens, and so does he.

    Do you expend 10% of your resources worrying about something with a 1:1000 probability of happening, even if it is a total wipe-out if it occurs? Or do you spend those same resources on a problem that is real and impacting you now? If you are a politician, you always pick the latter and pray the former doesn’t happen on your watch. The mayor lost this bet. Sometimes that happens, even when the odds are in your favor.

    So he should quit complaining, and take responsibility for not being better prepared. If he wants my help rebuilding New Orleans, I need to see some leadership down there. Otherwise, let’s spend the money somewhere else.

    Comment by Paul Lambert -

  23. RE: COLLABORATIVE TECHNOLOGY
    Over the last week, I too have been appalled by the lack of collaborative technology in use by FEMA, the Red Cross, et al, and I am hopeful that this will be addressed by our government (at the local, state & federal levels) and by relief organizations when the time comes for a thorough analysis of what has happened and subsequent ACTION is taken. As U.S. citizens, we need to take responsibility and make sure OUR government and the relief organizations get their acts together…even if in the short term it has to be done on their behalf by an “open source community” of sorts as suggested by Irfo. Along those lines, in the immediate term, is it possible for the major search engines (e.g. IceRocket) to write some algorithms to help consolidate much of the Katrina-related information out there and present it an organized manner? All that said…

    RE: CLOTHES DONATIONS in Dallas
    As a Dallas resident, I can attest that the broadcast stations I watched/listened to and the web sites I checked out (admittedly with some digging) all clearly indicated that cash was needed most and that used clothing was not needed, but new underwear was needed…and probably still is. With regard to the clothing, I presume that one of the reasons it wasn’t needed was because they already had too much??? Also, at this stage (or at least as of this last weekend), I would rather have the relief organizations and their volunteers focusing on shelter logistics, water, food, healthcare, reuniting families, etc. and not sorting through huge piles of donated clothes…either used or new. Maybe later this week, but not last week.

    BTW – I just did a quick search on ‘Dallas + “business clohes” + donations’ and found the following organization for women:

    http://www.attitudesandattire.org/

    Comment by Debbie Spalding -

  24. What ever happened to the emergency broadcasting system that broke into every show I have ever cared to watch? Was that mostly just to warn us about where the storm is or to “Give us instructions”? I think it was just to make us feel safe! They tell me when a thundrestorm is coming, but isn’t that all the same sh-t that you see and hear in the regular media??

    Comment by Rob Thrasher -

  25. Mark, The Dallas Life Foundation is taking donations of clothing to distribute to the hurricane victems that are staying in Downtown
    Dallas. We are located right around the corner from reunion arena and have started to outreach to there and to the convention center where the people are housed. BTW great post.

    Comment by Tom Daniel -

  26. I started making calls on Thursday trying to make in kind donations I called my
    congressman( they gave me FEMA # to call), both US Senators ( they gave me the Red Cross # gee thanks),The State National
    Guard( they took a message) Red Cross (I called for the President I forgot her name got a voice mail), United Way ( Voice mail message), Save the Children,Three major US corporations.Nothing but voice mail and redirects. I got one call back – from Save the Children,they could not help.We heard on the radio ,Saturday that the local armory was taking in-kind donations.It was frustrating to say the least. I think those who say it is not the time to point fingers are probably right.That being said – there will be a time.By then We will have learned alot about how to deal with disasters in the future and the rest of us civilians will know how best to help and when.

    Comment by dan -

  27. Hi,
    Sorry, not time to read the all the comments so this may be redundant. There are ways to route goods around the big charities:

    http://bbenz.typepad.com/softwaresoapbox/2005/09/wired_news_crai.html

    Perhaps P2P charities are the wave of the future for these events?

    Comment by Brian Benz -

  28. The text message connection would be the biggest thing they could do. In an emergency FEMA, maybe the governor then FEMA, should have the ability to order cell providers to disallow voice calls and tell people to use text only, plus stream news about the emergency to text messages. You know that most people don’t know that they can, from any email portal, i.e. Gmail, MS Express, etc., send a message to pretty much any cell phone like you’re sending an email. Even the gal at sprint told me I couldn’t do that. I used YAHOO to add a cell device and YAHOO knew my cell’s email address better than the Sprint Rep. You do not have to log into the cell companies Web site to receive email. If you have a sprint cell as I do your email address is your ten digit number then @messaging.sprintpcs.com so, as an example, mine is 3154046260@messaging.sprintpcs.com. For Nextel I think it is the phone number at vtext.com and in a few seconds you’ll get your email to your phone.

    Comment by Rob Thrasher -

  29. Mark,

    I’ve heard a million times from the various leaders to make a cash donation. They never explained why, and I didn’t understand why cash, and not a credit card for example.

    After reading your article, it must be because of situations like yours.

    Thanks, Justin

    Comment by Justin -

  30. Wanted to let fellow bloggers know that the Red Cross has updated their site in hopes that the online community supports the cause much like Mark has on the upper right-hand side of his blog. (although I didn’t see that specific execution on the page below)

    Here is the link to get various ad sizes:
    http://www.redcross.org/psa/bannerorder/all/

    Comment by Brett Goffin -

  31. Hey Mark,

    I don’t know if you found a place to donate that stuff, but if you didn’t, you should look into Mission Arlington (www.missionarlington.org, then click on the “giving” tab). They’re credible and I know they’re taking in kind donations.

    Comment by Keith -

  32. Did you try the FEMA web site and click on Katrina donations, or just click http://www.fema.gov/press/2005/katrinadonations.shtm

    I think there are very basic needs at this moment, but this is going to be a long process for these folks.

    Oprah did an excellent show today, and she’s doing it again tomorrow. She’s down there with a bunch her gang and her Angel network.

    Comment by Blogger -

  33. Along with your criticism of how things are being handled, you offer some very practical ideas. It’s far different than the pissy, finger pointing that has been going on so far …

    Comment by Robert -

  34. Mark,

    All great points. The fact is the media outlets and relief organizations must make it easier for people to find out how they can help, and for many people that means donating the shirts off their backs because they simply don’t have the financial resources to spare.

    Here in Houston, however, many of us have found a way around the “no donations accepted” signs. We have been volunteering at the Astrodome for the past several days and take items with us when we go in. If you are volunteering to work there is no limit to how much stuff you can take in with you, so, if you are still planning any physical donations, just have someone who is volunteering take them for you.

    Comment by Dave -

  35. Mark…good point about aid orgs mentioning that, right now, they cannot take what are called donations-in-kind, even when the donations are practical.

    Having worked in non-profit finance and fundraising for many years, I know that the trouble with taking donations-in-kind from an individual is the tax receipt connundrum. Non-profits are obliged to give receipts or thank yous for donations. With money donations, a simple thank you letter will suffice as a receipt for a donation. Orgs have requested checks rather than cash becasue the donor will have a record of the exact amount, and, when the check is cashed, the amount is acknowledged. The general thank you plus your cashed check satisfies the feds.

    The dollar amount of a large donation-in-kind has to be adequately assessed to give proper credit to the donor. So, with your large clothing donation with a high value, the value would have to be accurately assessed and the thank you/tax receipt would have to be issued in the assesed amount. It also may have to be determined if the donations came from one individual, a corporation, or multiple individuals. If the donation is from multiple individuals, multiple receipts must be generated.

    It’s alot of work to adequately account for donations-in-kind, and an org can get into all kinds of hot water if the recordkeeping isn’t done properly. Right now, it’s just easier for them to take food and other items that don’t need a strict accounting.

    and, you’re also right about a better use of our technology–alot of it is used for placating our vanities and competing for media turf. We might start thinking of better uses of the peoples media for the people.

    Comment by Tish G -

  36. http://www.clarionledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050906/NEWS0110/309040003

    Here is a link to shelters in MS. We are still in need of a lot of items. If there is anything you could send their way it would be great. They are afraid there could be a couple of thousand that died on the coast, and close 10,000 without homes at all (totally destroyed), with many many more with damage to their homes. Thanks for any help.

    Comment by l cooper -

  37. I agree with your post. The only reason I can think of that they might not be accepting clothing donations on-site would be to keep people from fighting over the clothing that arrives. I think it’s great to see all the examples of the church groups throughout the nation that go to their local leader to ask what they can do to help. I live in Idaho and there are people here willing to accept people into their homes and put together care packages to be sent to flood victims. I wish that media would focus on what we can do instead of what the Government is or is not doing.

    Comment by Eric -

  38. Criticisms of the Red Cross are uncalled for, especially considering their website clearly says how, where, and what to donate. They need cash because they aren’t trying to give someone a suit for a job interview, they’re focusing on providing food and water and other essentials to a quarter million people who have been displaced by the hurricane. In order to achieve this, they need to follow some strict guidelines, or else they have chaos, where some people are receiving new clothes, some children are receiving toys, and others are not.

    There are charities that accept clothing and other items. Take your donations there, don’t waste time criticising the Red Cross for doing what they do. They are the only organization in the country who can effectively provide the relief that they provide. People do need to use a little common sense, and do a minimum amount of research before showing up with a truckload of clothes(the donation instructions on the red cross website are pretty easy to find, and they are very clear about what they can accept, and what donations they are not set up to handle). No matter how much technology these charities use, there will still be people who don’t pay attention to the instructions. And that is why I doubt any of the suggestions Cuban mentions would actually be effective, because people won’t follow the directions, and the systems would be overwhelmed. If one of the technology industry leaders can’t find the “how to donate” link on the red cross website, and can’t pick up how EVERY news anchor continually repeated that the Red Cross and Salvation Army need CASH, I doubt the general public will feel comfortable with adding more complicated technology into the mix. The information was there, some people didn’t listen. Everybody’s heart is in the right place, and there are places that will still accept any kind of donation you offer(specifically all the churches that are reaching out to host families from New Orleans). They will be very willing to accept toys, clothes, whatever. Usually, they will ALWAYS accept these items, not just during a disaster, because there is always a need for clothes and toys and stuff, and local churches are in the best position to deliver these goods to the people who need them most.

    Comment by Tim -

  39. I too spent yesterday driving around Dallas trying to find a place to donate gently used clothes. I was turned away from the Salvation Army and Texas Stadium. At Texas Stadium they said they just didn’t have space. I pointed across 183 to the vast yard that had hundreds of empty trailers in it and asked them if they’d called there for a donation. I asked them if they had called the yards along I 45 that have a vast expanse of shipping containers. I got stairs. I drove around Dallas looking for a church taking donations…none. I wound up at Goodwill. They will sell everything; which is good, but sad for those really now in need. We spend more time organizing our organizations than operating them.

    Comment by Harold -

  40. Let me know what I can do to help with your ideas Mark.
    Respectfully,
    Val Barrutia

    Comment by val barrutia -

  41. There is a differnce between pointless criticisms and offering up ideas for improving things for the next time. You are doing the latter and we apparetiate that.

    Comment by Scott Griffith -

  42. Mark,

    Check out Habitat for Humanity. I’ve vounteered with them in the Dallas area for over a year now and I couldn’t imagine a better charity. Charities like the Red Cross are great for immediate response, but it’s going to be organizations like Habitat that will help in the long term by helping build affordable housing for those that need it.

    check it out:

    http://www.habitat.org

    thanks,

    Todd

    Comment by todd -

  43. Mark,

    Every newscast and every spokesperson for the Red Cross and other relief organizations began with the NEED FOR CASH. That should have been your first move. One of those big ole CUBAN CHECKS you are known for…After seeing the Tulane University Football team on local TV holed up at SMU with only a couple of t-shirts to their names, I organzied a clothing drive as well and now I imagine the team is sporting some of the 80’s and 90’s finest party gear we were all known for…LOL. You can find them at the Doubletree Campbell Center just a couple miles east of your pad if you’re still driving around with the clothes…

    Comment by T.P. -

  44. Mark:
    It’s been a long time since we’ve had a reason to talk, but this one brought be out of the woodwork. I totally agree with you on the personal in kind donations. Like you, I know these people need things now. Suits and business clothes for job interviews and may be a trip to church. Even baby clothes, blankets and school supplies would help these families. We’ve even talked to several medical suppliers to help with special needs kids and elders and they are willing to help– but the Feds and RC make it nearly impossible. While we’ve given donations, this idea of ONLY wanting cash really rubs me the wrong way. Like you I like to do most of my charity work in a low key personal manner, without the spotlight or potential of a media event.

    On the other end, the Red Cross has had it’s head up the perverbial tailpipe for years when we (a group of old CompuServer Wizops)and other groups of have suggested to them a centralized dbase for events just like Katrina. May be the time has come for “we the people” to take the bull by the horns and do it ourselves. And when it’s sucessful they will come calling.

    We’ll chat soon– Mary Lu

    Comment by Mary Wehmeier -

  45. WE disagree on some things as posted before🙂 but you are right on here .
    Ron

    Comment by Ron Des Laurier -

  46. If you’re still looking for a place to donate your clothes try the SoupMobile http://www.soupmobile.org. I work a concession stand at the Mavericks’ home games to raise money for this non-profit.

    They are feeding and clothing some of the Katrina refugees as well as the homeless. I’m sure they’d be pleased with a cash donation as well🙂.

    Comment by Sandy -

  47. You’d think that FEMA would have a web site where all of the NGO’s/govt could enter information about the people who they’re housing. This would also allow their friends and relatives to look them up and find them. If they didn’t find them, the system would allow them to enter their names, along with an email address. If the people were input into the system in the future, the system would email the friends or relatives who input the missing persons name. FEMA should have this setup and routinely publish the URL so that people know where to go in case of future disasters. Just seems like common sense. Volunteers should not have to setup systems…

    Comment by Beau -

  48. With regard to Mike’s comments (#1) to hope we’re better prepared for the next disaster … I thought that’s’ what we’d be doing, as a country, since 9/11? Isn’t that what making Homeland Security a cabinet-level department and consolidating agencies like FEMA under it was all about? God forbid the terrorists hit us in two places at once, because we’ve demonstrated we’re generally incapable of being prepared for widespread disaster in just one metro area, much less two or more.

    Comment by Brian -

  49. Virginia Postrel notes a similar experience in her blog. Dallas is unquestionably a great city. You guys all rock.

    Comment by Brad Hutchings -

  50. Dick: this is underway. Link:

    http://192.122.183.218/wiki/index.php/PeopleFinderVolunteer

    Comment by Nick Davis -

  51. Mark,
    Here is somewhere your genius could surely be utilized. There are tons and tons of blogs and boards in different media sites offering contact between the missing and those looking for loved ones. There are so many sites on the Internet, that it is impossible to look at all of them to find who you are looking for. Do you have any idea for a central place in which people could go and search for friends andloved ones? I’m looking for friends too, by the way. I hope they made it out of Gulfport, but I lost their cell numbers. Thanks. You are one of the good guys. Dick

    Comment by Dick -

  52. The ideas are so simple it’s amazing that they have not been implemented. It occurs to me that disaster preparation these days should automatically consider all the ways we as a people currently communicate.
    I do agree with the comment that the organizations that help (Red Cross, etc) are focused on just getting the job done and don’t have many of the resources to set up electronic networks. With that in mind, it would be truly heroic for one of the many for-profit, multinational companies in our country to pay for the development of a disaster/emergency communications system either as a complement to what already exists or as an alternative, and provide the infrastructure and means to support it. Before the next disaster strikes.

    Comment by Kirsten -

  53. Here is another shelter in Baton Rouge that is accepting goods, clothing, etc. We are sending a convoy to them from Hollywood.

    VOLUNTEER BATON ROUGE
    BLYTHE DAIGLE
    460 N. 11TH STREET
    BATON ROUGE, LA 70802

    Comment by Amy -

  54. I’m a pastor and my phone starting ringing immediately once the Hurricane had passed. “Pastor, what can we do?” We took up all kinds of things yesterday but faced the same constraints you did. We circumvented it by finding a group of 500 headed to one of our local camps and gave it to them.
    I’m not asserting this about your blog, but what sickens me is the finger-pointing and name calling going on all the while the proverbial ox is in the ditch. There may be a time later to work to solve the problems created by a simply overwhelming natural (or man-made) disaster but while we still have people suffering it’s time to minister, not accuse. Here’s to using tech to minster as well as inform!

    Comment by Darin M. Wood -

  55. Maybe some of your suggestions would not be viable but i understand your underlying point that there are definatly ways to improve the current ways of doing things.

    The thing is that i do not expect the organisations to change and consider the possibilities of doing things better by using tech in a more innovative way, but more on us individual users comming together in a sort of ‘open source community’ type of spirit and making a difference instead of having to soley rely on providing a donation and still carrying the feeling of not doing enough.

    Will people do it, i dont know. But i do know that the tech is out there for us to do it.

    Comment by Irfo -

  56. Mark,

    If you still want to contribute clothing or funds our church is delivering goods directly to victims in Baton Rouge. I am a member of Wilshire Baptist and we have been sending trucks to University Baptist church in Baton Rouge to distribute. We will take new or used clothes, water, diapers, money or just about anything. (for me it is refreshing to see NGOs sending help outside of ‘official’ channels)

    Just call or email Mark Wingfield, Associate Pastor Wilshire Baptist Church at 214.452.3128 or mwingfield@wilshirebc.org.

    Comment by Alexander Muse -

  57. Am a bit surprised your first instinct wasn’t to go online to find the best ways to donate/contribute online…but I’m glad you didn’t…wouldn’t have realized that the big guys like Red Cross don’t like physical donations…

    I thought it was curious that President Bush asked citizens to send “cash money” while doing an impromptu press conference from a Red Cross site in the Gulf area.

    Comment by Michael Parekh -

  58. The bottleneck is so frustrating. So many people who need help, so many people that want to help them, but meet so many obstacles.

    Comment by dg -

  59. Mark, how hard would it be to hook up an RSS aggregator to the jubmotron in Houston and other arenas, and show updates via RSS, gathered from the relevant news organizations?

    Comment by Nick Davis -

  60. I’m not shocked…you and I and many other people use intelligent technology intelligently. Makes you want to bang your head against the wall.

    Andrew
    Dallas

    Comment by Andrew Coffey -

  61. Non-Profit organizations focus on the services they deliver…and this is where the bulk of the budgets are (and should be) spent. They are often the last to be able to identify and prioritize new technologies, even those which might be of benefit in situations such as these.
    Perhaps the value we as a technology community can provide is to mobilize those with the technology, the interest and the financing that can create an emergency information network which can be utilized by any organization in need of such capability. Certainly the maintenance of such a network would fall to a government or private organization, but this is something that likely has to be created by those with the experience with invention and turned over to those with the experience maintaining and administering. While your ideas are intriguing I see it unlikely that they will be adopted by organizations whose time and money are justifiedly focused on more pragmatic efforts. That is, they are unlikely to unless the technology community brings a simple and efficient way of providing the services to the organizations so that they can continue to focus on the tasks that they were created to deliver.

    Comment by Patrick Sheehy -

  62. Mark, great post. I think I agree 100% with you on this.

    Comment by Matt Gerlach -

  63. Mark,

    I’d bet that you didn’t really have to think long or hard to come up with those simple suggestions, yet how much better would this situation be if all of those had been implemented already.

    Most companies and organizations are top heavy with “thinkers”, yet don’t have enough “do’ers”. Most of the things you mentioned are very simple, yet no one group was able to come up with them on their own and probably won’t implement them in the future.

    How can we as a nation get back to the simple ways to make things better ? How can we get rid of buzzwords, hype and over-educated, yet under-abled management ?

    Let’s get this country back to getting things done in ways that are efficient, effective and economical. It doesn’t have to have a fancy, buzz-word laden name to be any of those things.

    Our management schools are far too heavy with academics that have never implemented the first solution. We need a school of management that’s loaded with teachers that can SHOW our youth how to get it done, not tell them how.

    Let’s hope that we, as a nation, are better prepared for the next disaster. Maybe if we had been testing our processes a little more, we could have been a little better prepared. And a little better prepared might mean a few lives saved or some pain lessened for some of the unfortunate souls in the middle of this terrible event.

    Comment by Mike Sigers -

  64. So many people who need help and so many people that want to help them, but meet so many obstacles. Too much gov’t and corporate red-tape?

    Comment by puddy -

  65. I don’t mean to imply that it is technically possible to defeat a hurricane. The point is that you get out ahead of the situation when you know it’s coming. In this case, it took four days to get Gen Honore and his troops into New Orleans.

    Comment by runescape money -

  66. I just heard the FEMA director of Missippi explain that they couldn’t go into the devastated areas of the state because it would drain the scarce supplies of gasoline in hard-hit areas. So FEMA can’t bring their own fuel and some relief for people? What’s with that?

    Comment by wow powerleveling -

  67. It is terrible. People have gone through awful to mountain, necessarily, all who can should help to restore the habitation though has passed any more one and not two days, but I am assured, that people till now require the help!

    Comment by chemp -

  68. I was in New Orleans in April doing volunteer work in St. Bernards Parish. I cannot even begin to explain how bad the situation was in April. People who stayed trying to rebuild their life with not much of anything to support their efforts. No supermarket was open so to buy food was not even an option. The pharmacy had just open mind you this is 7 months after Katrina. What amazed me is the people I met were gracious they appreciated anything offered. They also needed an ear to listen I met a man at the soup kitchen he told me he lost his wife in Katrina the next day he was getting her death certificate. That night he came back to show me a puppy he had just gotten. He then exlaimed that he needed something to love that would love him. He had been working on attempting to rebuild his home. He was eating at the soup kitchen because that is the only way to get a meal in St. Bernards.
    I did not quite understand why he was so excited about receiving the death certificate of his wife. The next day when we went into our first home to gut, the light bulb went off.
    No pictures, letters nothing was left in these homes. Imagine loosing a loved one and not seeing their name in any writing for 7 months. The media has moved on so have many people who once resided in New Orleans. The people that have stayed want to rebuild from what I saw they would not be asking for help unless they needed help(they are proud people). Why is this not in the news every day if this was Florida the lights would be on the water would be running and they would have a supermarket.

    Comment by margot radin -

  69. I was in New Orleans in April doing volunteer work in St. Bernards Parish. I cannot even begin to explain how bad the situation was in April. People who stayed trying to rebuild their life with not much of anything to support their efforts. No supermarket was open so to buy food was not even an option. The pharmacy had just open mind you this is 7 months after Katrina. What amazed me is the people I met were gracious they appreciated anything offered. They also needed an ear to listen I met a man at the soup kitchen he told me he lost his wife in Katrina the next day he was getting her death certificate. That night he came back to show me a puppy he had just gotten. He then exlaimed that he needed something to love that would love him. He had been working on attempting to rebuild his home. He was eating at the soup kitchen because that is the only way to get a meal in St. Bernards.
    I did not quite understand why he was so excited about receiving the death certificate of his wife. The next day when we went into our first home to gut, the light bulb went off.
    No pictures, letters nothing was left in these homes. Imagine loosing a loved one and not seeing their name in any writing for 7 months. The media has moved on so have many people who once resided in New Orleans. The people that have stayed want to rebuild from what I saw they would not be asking for help unless they needed help(they are proud people). Why is this not in the news every day if this was Florida the lights would be on the water would be running and they would have a supermarket.

    Comment by margot radin -

  70. It’s interesting how fast the media forgets about these things though. Just yesterday on a late show, a guest was talking about being there and seeing all of it today. I think the Web covers things quickly and therally, BUT due to the amount of news and the fast lane effect, we move on maybe a bit too quickly.

    Comment by Igor M. Marketing -

  71. Brandon Connel
    +1
    I think you really try help this people;)
    Thnks for you good job!
    respect!

    Comment by Oleg -

  72. It is pretty stupid that they didnt take clothes. People need them. At the time this happened I watched on the news. I was homeless and had to move in with my grandmother. I was stranded because my car was jacked up and I had no insurance and my fiance left me and took our kids. I still did all I could to help. I opened up a thread on my real estate forum at http://www.equitybegone.com for hurricane victims to try and get them places to live and work, etc. The point is I was in bad shape and I did all that I could. Do all you can and get to these people by yourself. Dont rely on Red Cross and everyone else to be the middleman because they are not qualified obviously to help anyone.

    Comment by Brandon Connell -

  73. Took me a while to find this blog entry again, but finally found it. Let’s just hope that this year the government plans ahead and people plan to not count on the government. That’s the best way to look at it. I’ve personally been through a couple hurricanes now and they were awful and nowhere near the catastrophe Katrina was. Let’s just hope we all learned from it.

    Comment by Bryan Hauer - Official Blog -

  74. Took me a while to find this blog entry again, but finally found it. Let’s just hope that this year the government plans ahead and people plan to not count on the government. That’s the best way to look at it. I’ve personally been through a couple hurricanes now and they were awful and nowhere near the catastrophe Katrina was. Let’s just hope we all learned from it.

    Comment by Bryan Hauer - Official Blog -

  75. Right after this disaster happened, we were in awe of how many medical alerts went off. Our station received signals from customers asking us what to do, even though we’re in New York, only able to dispatch emergency services or neighbors. For some reason the demographic showed that seniors from surrounding areas rushed to the medical alert site to get more information. My question is … was this the best info they could get? Even though we try to provide information about health, medical news and etc, this was very surprising.

    Comment by medical alert -

  76. Right after this disaster happened, we were in awe of how many medical alerts went off. Our station received signals from customers asking us what to do, even though we’re in New York, only able to dispatch emergency services or neighbors. For some reason the demographic showed that seniors from surrounding areas rushed to the medical alert site to get more information. My question is … was this the best info they could get? Even though we try to provide information about health, medical news and etc, this was very surprising.

    Comment by medical alert -

  77. very good!

    Comment by 11nong -

  78. It was the present disaster. Our company did not know what to do! But then all of us have corrected, but the damage was great!

    Comment by whales -

  79. 2 Donna
    You have right!
    I can’t imagine…how they can do this now?
    After disaster, when almost all state need help.
    In our planet, there are many people, which earn money, after some disaters!
    I hate them

    Comment by Ronald -

  80. Please do not donate anything to the group in #72 post. It is a SCAM. They are getting families as mine to sign up if you cannot find help with Christmas for your children anywhere else and getting people to donate cash, toys clothing and food. They have left us as all thinking we were getting help for Christmas when in fact we are Not. Now it is so close to Christmas that it’s too late to get help elsewhere. Read it for yourself http://groups.yahoo.com/group/katrinarelocatedallas

    Comment by Donna -

  81. Mark, I think your “Amber alert” type of idea is a great one. Obviously this kind of system is very feasable because there’s already a working model in place. Secondly, it WILL get used. It’s only a matter of time, but sooner or later there will be more disasters of epic proportions on US soil, and communication seems to be one of the #1 issues that we need to develop and prepare.

    Comment by Wyatt -

  82. toys coats blankets and warm clothing needed for evacuees children as well as other needy children in the Dallas area. We are accepting new and used items. Contact 972 463 6954 for donation information

    Comment by Deborah Cook Family Life Ministies -

  83. I know this is really late in the game to add a commen but I just want to say thanks for keeping it real. A pet peeve of mind is when a person complains about the efforts of FEMA or the Red Cross yet they don’t formulate solutions on what the agencies could have done to make the situation better. You are so on point with your comments and solutions. Every govt agency in America should read this log and most importantly take action!

    Comment by Sarah M -

  84. i am in biloxi i am trying to takecare of my family in this mess i need help linens blankets pillows space heaters school supplies for homeschool anything you have just lying around that you dont use even household deco curtains knick knacks we are all just trying to make our house, what we have left of it a home

    Comment by deanna kelly -

  85. thank you for your blessing

    Comment by deanna kelly -

  86. i am a citizen if biloxi ms we were blown away in our hearts and minds there was nothing to compare the destruction to. but yes more than ever we need househol items electronics towells bed linens furnature anything u can ship them to me an i will put them all in my front yard displayed and in about 2 ddays it will be gone we are in dyer need we feel lost by the media and the press
    god bless you
    deanna kelly
    4090 popps ferry rd
    biloxi ms 395
    32

    Comment by deanna kelly -

  87. What began as a comment to this post evolved into a Blog Entry of my own.
    http://givemeaning.blogspot.com/2005/10/in-kind-donations.html

    Comment by Tom Williams -

  88. I have been seeing more forum notes people have written saying they will never give to the Red Cross again.

    Comment by Pamela Elaine -

  89. October 07, 2005

    Dear Mark,
    My husbands name is also Mark and he worked at Enron Corporation from 1983 to 1995. He was a computer programmer in the contracts department. The Language he used was APL, he says its a very powerful language for crunching numbers. Have you ever heard of it. I don’t think very many people know much about it but he became a key employee because he was the only one at the company that could use it. He could never go on a vacation without a laptop so he could be available to do what only he knew to do if they neede it while he was gone. Enron tried to get rid of APL for about 5 years, they had a company come in called EDS (ROSS PEROT??) I believe. I thought it was all pretty interesting.
    In 1995 we moved to Louisiana, close to my relatives. I moved in Sabine Parish about 35 miles.

    You did a movie on Enron?? How do I see it? Is it coming out in theatres. I am a retired nurse and I am currently attending Northwestern State University in Natchitoches. Louisiana working towards my second degree, a B.S. in social work. I grew up in Louisiana (Shreveport/Bossier City). I met my husband in Houston, Texas. He graduated from Clarion State Universtiy in Pennsylvania. He moved to Houston during the big oil boom, there were no jobs to speak of in Pittsburgh at the time.

    Anyway, I want to tell you a little about my experience working with the Red Cross at the shelter on my campus. I helped the one Red Cross trained person they sent when 750 people walked through the doors of the shelter. She was needless to say extremely overwhelmed. She had ask a lady it she would help her by taking the positon of being the local volunteers’ coordinator. The lady refused because she said she did not want to take on such a huge responsibility. I the type person that loves people. and a challenge and so I jumped right in and started helping the Red Cross shelter manager. We worked non-stop, well maybe three hours a night sleep for a week and a couple of days. I was so proud the way our community had pulled together taking care of the evacuees from New Orleans. It was such a blessing and a humbling privelege to be in the position that I had to help. I loved it. Not for glory but only for the love and concern for hurting and devastated people. Well the initial Red Cross lady had to leave because the Red Cross people only come in for about 3 weeks at a time. Well, after getting everything under control and now it would be possible to actually sit down and spend quality time with the people the Red Cross sent a crew of about 8 Red Cross workers. I’m going to make this brief and short. I was wearing a Red Cross vest so the one in charge made a big deal out of it and told me to take it off, then he would have meetings without filling me in so I would look like a dummy. Remember these Red Cross people are from all over the nation, but this is my hometown. I decide to keep to myself stay out of their way, and continue what I was assigned to do, (put together a routine schedule of community people that could come in and work like it was a part-time or full-time job until we saw relief for the hurricane victims. Well the new Red Cross people had other plans for me. (I had also been given the position of activities director so I was having music groups come out to play to keep the peoples morale up so they don’t get discouraged and give up and end up so in the mental hospital.

    Well to make a long story short, the Red Cross people went to the head of the college building where the evacuees were staying and had me kicked out of the building and I was warned I couldn’t go back in or I would have to go before a judge.

    I was so dumbfounded and in shock I was just numb. They told me they didn’t need me to volunteer anymore because the Red Cross was here. I didn’t see them telling any other local volunteers they had to leave and couldn’t come in. I started getting very curious that maybe something wasn’t right with the Red Cross and the college, that maybe they were up to something they didn’t want me to know, something I started thinking might have to do with keeping the people at the shelter and keeping their checks for a while so the college could make more money from the government. This is only speculation though. It just all seemed awfully fishy.

    I called the national headquarters of the Red Cross, and left a voice mail message for the president of the Red Cross, Marty Evans and she had someone call me. I told her about the vest problem and she told me that in the capacity I had been working it was no problem at all for me to have a vest on. I told her about getting kicked out of the shelter from being able to work with the evacuees and she was shocked and looked up the name of the Red Cross shelter manager that took over from the lady that I originally worked for from day one and she pulled that person up on her national computer and told me the person had not been trained to be a shelter manager. That was the reason I was treated like I was by them. The person was a loose cannon in my community, and was even telling people in my community I was a “troublemaker”. This person would be leaving to go back where they came from but I would be left behind to pick up the pieces. One of the problems that also made it hard on me is that I am BiPolar and it sent me into a depression and of course it was very hard to concentrate on my studies. But when the lady from national headquarters that the person that did these things was not representing the Red Cross, and that they were wrong for what they did and they would be removed immediatly from the shelter manager position and that I would be receiving a letter of apology, my spirit was lifted and it felt like a burden was lifted from my shoulders. The lady at the national Red Cross Headquarters gave me her cell phone # and said call anytime. I called a couple of times to let her know about others in the community not happy with other things that were pulled by the Red Cross worker.

    Now, the lady is out of communication with me, she won’t E-mail me, or phone me, and I have not seen an apology letter.

    Picking up the pieces from Hurricane Red Cross,
    Pamela Elaine Lockridge, ADN
    Phone: (318) 472-8302
    Pager: (318) 333-5738
    E-mdail: Lock24@bellsouth.net
    plockrid001@student.nsula.edu

    I don’t think this organization with all our donated goods and money are the right people to be handling things at this point or at least have an auditor watching so like Enron, they don’t bake the books.

    I have started a new organiztion under Mark and my Texas 501(c)3 non-profit organization to help the victims of distaster.
    http://www.woodencross7.blinkz.com

    We would love it if you could be an advisor to the organization. Someone needs to get the people help. When I was at the shelter I didn’t see one penny to the evacuees from the Red Cross and FEMA kept saying they would show up and day after day they didn’t. The people were so frustrated in an already horrible situation. I know I could not begin to even think I could imagine how they felt and what they had been through.

    I read your article just now about not being able to give used clothing. That is not right. Down here in Natchitoches the Red Cross accepted clothing and bedding for the victims from the community. The clothes were so many that they took them to outside places and drove the people over to pickout the clothes they needed. It was neat to see a New Orleans person wearing a local T-shirt. It made them fit right in with us. It was cool. Mark, read a bumper sticker one time that I thought was awsome. It said “When the people lead, the leaders will follow.” We don’t have to follow our leaders when they lead us the wrong way and there are things we can do beside sit around and complain. We can brainstorm with our fellow man and get busy doing what it takes to help each other. Because when all is said and done we have many in office that

    Comment by Pamela Elaine Lockridge, ADN -

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