Crowdsource Rescue: Puerto Rico
The Fog of Disaster
As Hurricane Harvey roared into Houston, data engineer Matthew Marchetti sat with his business partner Nathan Larson in their leaking office where they are normally busy running their business, Phase Four.
But this day was different because Harvey had arrived, and Harvey was no ordinary hurricane. Soon, Matthew watched in dismay as his phone began to light up as members of his church, Chapelwood UMC, began calling out for rescue to fellow members who were desperately trying to reach them.
“There was all of this back and forth,” Matthew said. “You may have heard of the ‘fog of war?’ Well, this was the ‘fog of disaster’.”
It seemed to Matthew that the rescue efforts were in danger of being critically handicapped by lack of information. As a data engineer, he saw the problem clearly- One group had help. The other group needed it.
So, Matthew and Nathan did what came naturally to them. They used existing real estate map data to create an automated solution to organize the rescue data. Six hours later, Crowdsource Rescue was born.
Matthew and Nathan didn’t set out to save Houston, or the victims of Hurricanes Irma and Maria either for that matter. They just wanted to help their neighbors get to safety, but God had bigger plans. When Matthew went to bed that first night, there were 250 rescues underway on the website. When he got up the next morning, the number had risen to over 3,000. By the time Harvey blew out of the Beaumont/Port Arthur area, the Crowdsource Rescue map logged a mindboggling 7,700 rescues involving more than 37,000 victims.
The results spoke for themselves. Crowdsource Rescue was a powerful new tool in disaster rescue.
Crowdsource Rescue had been thrown together quickly in response to the overwhelming need in Houston. Once Matthew and Nathan realized their program’s effectiveness, they were eager to go back to the programming and see what they could do with more time, but the 2017 hurricane season wasn’t willing to cooperate. Irma barreled toward Florida next, and Matthew’s team quickly modified Crowdsource Rescue to bring aid to the residents of the northeastern Caribbean and the Florida Keys.
Next, Hurricane Maria took aim at Puerto Rico. Again, Crowdsource Rescue was there to assist aid workers as they began the difficult process of getting desperately needed supplies to the devastated island despite minimal cell service, and almost total power outages. It is a mission that is far from over.
“Puerto Rico is very hard,” Matthew said, “When Harvey hit Houston, we had 37,000 rescues in four days. In Puerto Rico, we have had 3,000 in about five weeks. Family members (who are searching for loved ones) are still checking in with us every day. It is heartbreaking and frustrating.”
As the incredibly destructive 2017 hurricane season draws to a close, Matthew and Nathan are looking forward to going back to the drawing board. They want to get ready for the next hurricane, the next disaster. Matthew and Nathan are determined to invest whatever time and energy is needed to make Crowdsource Rescue the best possible tool it can be. They are excited to see what God has in store for them.
“We think this is the wave of the future in terms of responding to disasters,” Matthew said.
Puerto Rico needs you. If you speak Spanish and have a heart to help Puerto Rico, please reach out to Matthew and Nathan at http://crowdsourcerescue.com/