A crowdsourcing website developed during Hurricane Harvey has become an indelible resource for thousands of people in need of help during disasters.
Of the more than 46,000 people helped to date through using CrowdSource Rescue, 370 were in southeastern Texas this past week after Imelda — a tropical storm that weakened to a tropical depression — thrashed the area, according to founder Matthew Marchetti, 29.
The free website works by connecting professional first-responders and vetted volunteers with people in need before, during and after a disaster using GPS tracking and mapping technology, according to CrowdSource Rescue’s website. These connections are facilitated through a website where people can request help or offer to volunteer.
“It was built by Houstonians to help Houston,” Marchetti told CNN. “So when another storm threatens Houston or its neighbors, it’s obviously a bit personal. It has been a sight to behold, watching Houstonians quickly snap back in to the attitudes of Harvey, asking, ‘How can I help someone?’ and coming together to help others. There is a resiliency and helpfulness in this city, that is worth bragging to high heavens about.”
To date, CrowdSource Rescue has been used during 14 incidents around the US and registered more than 18,000 rescuers and volunteers, according to its website.
Many of those volunteers responded this week to Imelda, a slow moving storm that lingered over Harris and Jefferson County. Flooding on Thursday left Houston neighborhoods in several feet of water, forcing authorities to perform more than 400 high-water rescues, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office said. There were 323 stranded vehicles and 22 major accidents. There have been at least two storm-related deaths, according to law enforcement officials. Raul Eliseo Rivas-Hernandez, 56, was pulled Thursday evening from a van submerged in floodwater; he died after being taken to a hospital. In Jefferson County, 19-year-old Hunter Morrison died when he drowned after being electrocuted while trying to move his horse.
Late Thursday night, Marchetti could be found driving toward Beaumont to perform some rescues in a 15-foot tall Chevy 4500 pickup truck. The $140,000 truck was on loan from Houston lawyer and mayoral candidate Tony Buzbee who has let CrowdSource Rescue use the Chevy three times. Lifted trucks like this were a fixture during Hurricane Harvey.
“We have a massive drainage problem in Houston. I reached out to Matthew after hearing how his group organizes volunteer efforts in a very efficient way,” Buzbee told CNN. “When I’m driving down the freeway, instead of 18-wheeler drivers looking down at me, we’re at the same level. This truck was built for work.”
CrowdSource Rescue is mostly funded through donations. The group recently partnered with Axelrad, a Houston bar, which provided the organization a warehouse it’s turning into a disaster response headquarters.