(NEW YORK) — If people stranded in the middle of Hurricane Florence are unable to contact official first responders, there’s an app that might be able to help them.
CrowdSource Rescue, a free app built to connect volunteers and emergency personnel with those in need, helped tens of thousands of people stranded during the three most recent major hurricanes: Harvey, Irma and Maria.
Now, the app’s creators are gearing up to save more lives as Hurricane Florence batters the Carolinas, and inches closer to the East Coast.
“We have about 950 people who have signed up on our app as of this moment who’ve said, ‘I am a rescuer and I have a boat or I have a truck and I can help,’ as well as a number of dispatchers and people who are helping remotely,” Matthew Marchetti, co-founder of CrowdSource Rescue, told ABC News. “We expect to be inundated with requests for help in the next 24 hours.”
Marchetti said his team helped about 37,000 people during the three major hurricanes of 2017.
“In these large-scale disasters, we find resources can quickly become overwhelmed and there isn’t a good coordination system, which is why we turn to civilian response,” he said.
Marchetti claimed that during Hurricane Harvey, people were waiting for hours to speak with 911 dispatchers. But if someone puts a request into the CrowdSource Rescue website, they could be connected to a civilian responder within 20 minutes.
Marchetti emphasized that the app is meant to help civilians work alongside first responders, and not against them. Each call for help is vetted by the CrowdSource Rescue team through its geotags and IP address, to ensure that it is legitimate. Ultimately, it’s up to the civilian responder to call and make sure that the person calling is who they say they are.
“We will get involved only when we start to see abuse of the system and we’ll take that very seriously and we’ll block IP addresses,” said Marchetti. “But to date we’ve never really had a problem with that.”
Marchetti, a Houston native, created CrowdSource Rescue with a business partner, Nate Larson, when the two were trying to help during Hurricane Harvey.
“We decided to write this really quick simple web app to help organize rescues just for our church. We built it in about 6 hours,” he said.
When they woke up the next morning, Marchetti says there were around a thousand people using the app who needed to be rescued. That number grew to 5,000 people, then 10,000.
“Luckily for us we had all sorts of civilian rescuers checking in and using the site to self-organize rescues.”
People can sign up to ask for help or offer help on CrowdSource Rescue’s website.
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