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I downloaded an app and was part of the Cajun Navy (houstonchronicle.com)
324 points by rodrigocoelho 9 days ago | hide | past | web | 142 comments | favorite

I notice people talking about untrained ad hoc groups VS professional and paraprofessionals.

There is no competition here, there is only lives saved. Untrained ad hoc groups had smaller boats, had more boats, and were able to help people who would have died otherwise.

I do think it is worthwhile to talk about problems that occurred. Get a list of them, prioritize them, find solutions. Though they have to be solutions that don't make things worse, preferably ones that get tested during a mock disaster, not during the next real one.

One thing to note: Most people involved in these efforts were good intentioned and did their best. There are a few reports of bad actors, but they were rare.

A decent plan executed fast beats the perfect solution next week every time when lives are on the line. That said, now we have some time to think and plan. So let's make an app.

What training videos or info graphics does an ad-hoc flood rescue group need? How about urban earthquake? Terrorism response? Wildfire? How do you do effective dispatch? Triage? How do you best integrate with the professionals when they show up?

The knowledge gap between an amateur and a paraprofessional has never been substantial, and now we have the ability to provide training on-demand. We just need to build the capability to rapidly scale baseline knowledge and plug into a coordinated network. When disaster hits, you download the app and see what you can do.

There is knowledge and there are skills. An app can provide knowledge, but only training and practice can provide skills.

Skills may, to a limited extent, be substituted by something that guides decision making. Like that chatbot that helps people file small claims against Equifax. But that works best with well documented stable situations, and can be brittle in more fluid (no pun intended) ones.

As well, when it comes to definitive local resources like phone numbers, web sites, you have to keep checking them and updating them. And if information is changing rapidly or uncertain, this may be extremely difficult.

I am a generally thoughtful individual, but I really see the benefit of a domain expert in planning any app or tool for this purpose.

One thing in training you are constantly reminded of, is not to become one of the victims.

> The second he answered, he was screaming that his brother and cousin were laying in the backyard, unresponsive, possibly electrocuted.

> I told him they needed to try to get to them

> I went to the bathroom, refilled my tea, walked around a bit, thinking to myself, "What are you doing?? You're not qualified to do this!"

I'm not trained to handle this sort of thing either, but I'm pretty sure if you suspect someone has been electrocuted you shouldn't encourage others to attempt to rescue them unless you're confident they aren't also at risk of electrocution.

I was mortified reading this part. As well, telling people rescue is soon when you don't know (or know it isn't) can be disastrous.

I wish there were a disaster militia, with something like quarterly weekend trainings, with some FEMA sponsorship but still independent. It would be fun to practice ham communications and boat rescue anyway, and a little bit of practice could have a huge impact when the shit is truly hitting the fan.

Aside from the resources other people mentioned, many counties across the country (and almost all of them in California and the west) have local search and rescue teams. Team member skills range from "ground pounder" to swiftwater rescue, urban search and rescue, ICS (command).

Within California, there are mutual aid requests flying between counties almost all the time, along with support from CalOES, who coordinate heavy equipment, helicopters, communications, and other resources as needed.

Good search and rescue teams train regularly. In my current county, volunteers must at a minimum complete one of two wilderness first aid courses every year, CPR for professional rescuers every other year, show up to a minimum number of searches throughout the year, and a smattering of other training. (edit: overall training in my county is available almost once a week, with major mock searches a few times a year, plus an average of about 30 call-outs per year, usually including one major multi-agency incident. The folks that show up to most of this stuff get really good really fast.)

There are a lot of folks that just show up and dabble and provide the necessary manpower for basic tasks during an incident, and some folks that take it really seriously and try to complete as much training as they can and respond to as many incidents as their day job allows for.

Unfortunately, the county-level search and rescue teams rarely venture out of state.

I have some ICS training and could have managed a dispatch role, talked some folks through CPR, juggled multiple concurrent requests, and so on -- and I have software available that would have helped a lot. But this is the first I've heard of Zello.

FEMA is making some changes to SAR resource management and I'm hopeful that there will be improved cooperation between the states in the future.

And by the way: if you're interested in this kind of stuff, and want to do something hands-on helpful in your community, I really recommend checking out your county's SAR organization. If you're not sure where to start or what to expect, feel free to send me an email and I'll reply. If you're in California, I might even know some folks from your county's team. (SAR organizations could really benefit from more tech-oriented people, too.)

You hit the nail on the head.

Just to add another data point, everything up in Oregon works exactly the same. Monthly meetings, monthly trainings, optional trainings for specialty teams (rope support, trail running, ATV, mountain biking, etc) every week or so, and a call-out once every 1-2 weeks.

If you're even remotely interested in emergency preparedness I highly recommend signing up with a community search and rescue organization.

There is a militia, usually referred to as State Guard and several states have a Naval/Maritime regiment, including Texas[0]. Unlike the National Guard, the State Guard regiments are under the Governors command only.

There is also the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps[1], which have other public health roles, in addition to deployment during natural disasters. The PHSCC deploys with the Coast Guard for sea duty. USA Freedom Corps[2], and AmeriCorps[3] play a role in disaster response.

Team Rubicon[4] is a group of veterans that deploys in disaster response. I think they have small boat capability.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_State_Guard#Maritime_Reg...

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Public_Health_Se...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USA_Freedom_Corps

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AmeriCorps

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Team_Rubicon

The Dutch National Reserve is independent nor civilian but comes close. These units train every so often in first aid and military skills. They are tasked with:

1) Security of evacuated areas and vital objects

2) Assisting

- during calamities such as flooding and disease

- authorities in maintaining public order

- with large military transports or exercises ('Host Nation Support')

- civilian authorities other military units during large events

3) Ceremonial activities

Notably absent: fighting wars on foreign soil. And while training attendance is required, all work is voluntary.

The National Reserve is part of the regional emergency plans so there's a real opportunity there to be part of the organised relief efforts right from the start.

You should look into whether Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) is available for your area: https://www.ready.gov/community-emergency-response-team

If it's not, you may want to work on partnering with local emergency services to get one going.

Isn't that a one off class? Cool, but an organization needs maintenance to be activated well in a pinch.

Doesn't have to be. I have friends who participate in quarterly meetings for their city where they do drills for different emergencies.

I was a member of Galveston County CERT and still receive their emails. There are plenty of opportunities to continue training and help participate in drills. During Hurricane Harvey (and even afterward), I received quite a few emails asking for volunteers for different things. I highly recommend taking the training and volunteering with CERT.

> I wish there were a disaster militia

In many other countries there is Civil Defense ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_defense_by_country).

The US also appears to have a Citizen Corps (https://www.ready.gov/citizen-corps) under DHS.

Local governments often have volunteer organizations/training, e.x. San Francisco's NERT http://sf-fire.org/neighborhood-emergency-response-team-nert

That's a really good idea - and think of all the good such an organization could do (in contrast to the survivalist 'anti-commie guerilla'-type militias you see today).

When I lived in Vegas, the Clark county sherif had a "Jeep Posse". We did S&R. Completely volunteer.

Then LVMPD decided it was their responsibility.

So did they just tell you guys that you weren't allowed to participate?

Take a look at the Humanitarian Toolbox: http://www.htbox.org/

It's funny you mention Ham communications. ARES is a Ham group that does what you describe: http://www.arrl.org/ares

Even just how to behave as a passenger of an emergency is valuable training.

That's sort of what the national guard is for. They train a couple weeks per year and respond to situations like this.

Well, the national guard aren't civilians or local, plus they get sent to fight in wars and shit.

I am thinking more like a level below volunteer firepeople, with some regional and national coordination.

state guard. many states have it.

Or form your own. visit your local shooting range for details.

My (outsider's) impression of most private militias is that they often structure around people who are itching to gun down some bad dudes, as opposed to provide humanitarian aid.

Like, ah, these fine gentlemen. [1]

[1] https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/new9wd/the-birth-of-canad...

They weren't enough unfortunately, hence the cajun navy. Some sort of civilian auxiliary corps would be awesome.

I'm thinking of more of a social graph where civilians who are going to help in these sorts of situations can be organized more efficiently. For instance, instead of having a bunch of people drive their personal cars out there, going out as a group would improve the individual's abilities to help efficiently.

They also get sent to wage wars of aggression overseas, when the regular army gets stretched too thin.

They will also be deployed domestically to repress public uprisings, etc.

If you want to help people, you're better off becoming a firefighter. Unfortunately, outside of some small community volunteer firefighter groups, this really isn't an option. The National Guard does not fill this gap.

When Katrina hit, I remember finding the blog of a guy who had a company doing custom websites in New Orleans on the front page of hacker news. He stayed there through the storm and after, and I remember sitting in the undergraduate library at Wayne State University fighting back tears reading it. This had a similar affect on me. Very powerful story.

It wasn't clear to me, but I'd love to learn more about the tech powering this app. Is it open source? Is it somehow decentralized?

You might be thinking about https://interdictor.livejournal.com/2005/08/ ?

The Interdictor // this is the one that I remember. I was glued to this guy's post during that time ... was fascinating.

This is a haunting read, but gripping at the same time. Thank you for posting it.

I remember the same blog. He talked about fuel running out, posted pictures from the high rise etc?

That sounds right

What a blast from the past. Katrina hit during my senior year of undergrad and I went and refreshed that very same blog each hour for a day or two following along with events as they happened, as he saw them. Was an amazing perspective at the time.

Link please?

The part of this story I don't understand myself, is how so many people had bandwidth to download and use an app, in an environment in which I would have assumed both power and the cell network–especially data–were limping or just down.

The implicit question is, what percentage of people in the disaster zone did, and did not, have a channel out through this app? Does this story represent the 10% case or the 50% case or...?

Not sure where to find the answer...

Some of the cellphone network can operate with no wired power or network. Towers can have p2p microwave links and battery backups. That doesn't really answer your question about how/if/how-long it worked this week.



Some of the ones near me even have small wind generators.

These probably were super-effective during this occasion

Keep in mind that power outages in Houston were pretty rare and localized. Cell phone towers had power and the vast majority of homes had power (even a lot of the ones that were flooded, before it was explicitly cut off to flooded areas).

There were just a _lot_ of stranded people and not enough boats.


not in a badly effected area, but definitely there was flooding nearby. most of my friends/family/etc (irrespective of area) had power/phone/etc throughout, even those with flood damage. Which is not to say the flood damage was exaggerated however.

I personally only had a power outage for 4h only after the electric company blew some equipment trying to restore service for others.. (again not in a bad area)

we are pretty sprawly and most power lines, etc are above ground except in the very center of town. not sure if that helped or not, but perhaps worth mentioning - but as for trees falling etc, this storm had very low wind, etc for those in the HTX area (same def not true for those who experienced the actual hurricane)

I understand the security of the responder's aspect, but I was curious why the people couldn't make their own tickets. Why do they need to use an app, and talk to a dispatcher?

Probably because they were terrified for their lives, crouching on top of their kitchen counters trying to stay out of the snake infested water.

Not a great environment to be trying to get _just_ the right level of zoom to hit the form input field on your smartphone.

A lot of times, people using the app were freinds of those being rescued, and were in touch with them over SMS or phone.

However, many were using the app, and it's a great showing on the part of the Houston cell network.

Right. I know of people who lost power and cell phone coverage.

It's really depressing that we've largely abandoned the art of decentralized radio communication. I think Amateur radio has seen a minor resurgence in recent years, but it seems like more and more traffic that traditionally would have been passed by decentralized amateur operators now relies on centralized networks.

Obviously Zello and its ilk bring significant benefits with them, but I worry about the impact they have on proliferation of radio skills.

I tried getting into Amateur Radio. I'm mid-30s, and I really liked the idea of ham radio, ever since I was a child.

So I went ahead and spent 8 months on it. I got my Extra license (the highest level), learned all about Ares, got into nets.. all of it. I bought an Icom 7300 (really great radio). I even started learning Morse.

Why did I quit?

I couldn't deal with some of the hmm,"interesting" people on ham radio! I have a slight accent, enough to mark me out as a non-native born American (I'm a citizen now though), and I kept meeting people who were downright nasty to me.

I tried focusing on the positive, but after a few months and one particularly unpleasant contact, my wife asked me why I was wasting my time trying to talk to people who clearly didn't want me around.

She was right, and I quit. Yes, I met plenty of really nice hams, but every week that I was on the air, I would be bound to find someone calling me names.

Sure, you can just "spin the dial", but for those who don't know, ham radio is not anonymous. FCC regulations state that you have to give your call sign every 10 minutes, and you can look up anyone's name and home address from that call sign. That unpleasant contact consisted of a fine citizen telling me that he was going to come over and "kick my ass". Just because he thought I was illegal or something like that.

I'm sure he was just bloviating, but hey, I have a wife and kids.. I'm not risking it.

I'm still an Extra, but I sold my radios and don't want to get into it anymore.

Amateur radio is still alive, but there are not nearly as many active hams as there were 30 years ago when I first got my license. A much smaller percentage of hams know how to pass traffic in a systematic way these days, and not as many are proficient with Morse code, which is arguably the most efficient use of spectrum in disaster scenarios.

Hams did help during Harvey and are helping during Irma, but it doesn't get as much press as it used to.

I also think that there has been sort of a systematic degradation in neighborhood relations that has an impact on disaster response. My neighborhood has mostly middle aged and older people in it now, most of us know each other, but many neighborhoods have become much more transient in the last generation or so and ties are not as strong.

My challenge to a community that includes "hacker" in its name is to consider picking up the radio hobby. It has some real old school hacker opportunities for everyone. And, it has never been easier to obtain an amateur license. The Morse code requirements have been dropped. The technical part of the test is not that difficult for anyone with any understanding of electronics. The regulations are somewhat obscure, but not difficult to grasp. We need an infusion of new amateur radio operators. The old guys (like my dad) are disappearing fast.

The hackerspace I help run did a lot of work to rekindle the interest in amateur radio in the area by running free HAM courses; it led to a few dozen new licenses over last two years. If you are active in a hackerspace, consider running something like this too.

Personally, I'm planning to take an exam in literally 28 days from now. In my country there's a group of HAM operators training regularly for emergency operations (EMCOM), and I'm interested in participating in that.

> My challenge to a community that includes "hacker" in its name is to consider picking up the radio hobby.

You hit the nail on the head here. I've been fooling around with computer programming for over a decade now (since I was in Jr. High), and Arduinos and Raspberry Pis as long as they have been available, but I never put much thought into ham radio. Most of the makers I know go straight to pre-made WiFi or Bluetooth modules when the time comes to make their projects work wirelessly - accepting their limitations while overlooking much simpler solutions which can be achieved though RF and a little bit of know-how. In hindsight, I wish I had learned about ham radio much sooner.

There is a massive schism between the ham community and the hacker community which doesn't make much sense to me. They are both very much interested in finding novel solutions to problems and sharing them with the community, doing more with less, placing value in decentralization, and have a similar sort of independent counter-culture and grounded respect for technology.

I think it is simply a problem of awareness. Before I got into ham radio, I assumed that the FCC simply allocated a tiny bucket of useless spectrum for amateur use, and that it's practical utility was quite limited. I didn't know that amateurs had access to bands all the way across the spectrum, that they are allowed to transmit at 1500 watts, that they could talk directly to the ISS, or make use of satellite repeaters and reach across oceans with a walkie talkie. On the HF bands, ham radio makes international communication possible without any middleman, subscription fee, or infrastructure. It is also a godsend for people launching weather balloons, allows you to build some incredibly badass RC craft, and can serve as the backbone of all sorts of other fascinating endeavors.

I think the schism is generational. The maker movement is composed largely of kids who grew up with the Internet, and really took off with social media and web 2.0, while the ham community is composed of a large body of people who came of age and mastered their craft before computers became ubiquitous. For better or worse, a lot of them seem to remain set in their ways. Many ham websites, including those of active clubs, brick and mortar stores, and repeater networks, look like they're straight out of the 90s, and social media outreach remains quite limited. I suppose the fundamentals of radio, much like physics or mathematics, hasn't changed much in the past 50 years, but these communities unfortunately seem to be living in different worlds.

I think that it is essential for us to bridge the gap. The alliance of the hams and the makers really stands to bring positive outcomes for both communities.

Some of the fundamentals have changed, or at least been added to - nowadays some radios are actually software defined radios, but their owners might not even know it because the SDR and an embedded computer are built into one chassis, with physical front panel controls.

You are absolutely right about the generation gap between the two groups. I'm middle aged and one of the younger people at my ham radio club. I will say that some of us older folks have some computer skills, though. And many of them want to acquire maker skills but aren't sure where to start. Maybe that is my next local project.

I don't have any social media accounts, but I know some hams do engage there.

This seems like an opportunity for the amateur radio community to remind the world of its existence and to do some outreach that could eventually save lives. I have an emergency radio (1 way) that I've never used but if all other lines of communication were to go down I would pull it out and crank it up (literally, its a crank radio).

It seems uncertain whether these kinds of weather events are going to become more common but in general it does seem that climate change is likely to cause more extreme weather conditions worldwide (some of the wildfires we've seen could have a similar isolating need-rescue situations), disaster preparedness might become much more of a way of life than it has been for us in a while.

I have no experience with amateur radio. How resilient is it against bad actors? If i'd about to drown i'd probably keep yelling for help, regardless of consequences (for others). How do you handle such cases without some authority like in centralized networks? Switch to a different frequency?

LTE is radio. and WTF is decentralized radio? I don't think you can run a transmitter on the blockchain.

And what happens when a hurricane takes down the cell tower? Or the power is out for days and the cell tower's backup batteries run dry?

Decentralised radio is essentially ham radio. Individual units talking directly to each other, without relying on a single point of failure (the cell company). As others have said above, ham radio is a godsend in some situations. If you use the right bands, you can talk halfway around the world while running off batteries and using a wire thrown over a tree for an antenna.

Most mobile radio operators rely on repeaters which is a form of centralization. You can communicate without them but need to be closer or have the right equipment ahead of time.

> you can talk halfway around the world while running off batteries and using a wire thrown over a tree for an antenna.

And then what when everyone talks. Isn't it already regulated for this same reasoning? Seems to me a combination of open protocols and mesh networking would be better than government restricted ham.

Much mesh networking innovation is happening in ham communities. Go check it out.

decentralized != blockchain.

We used Zello when we were down there with a boat. We are just regular people, not part of anyone's navy, just a few guys with a boat that were part of a much larger civilian response to this disaster.

About the Cajun Navy - There were so many people responding to this disaster wanting to help with their time and boats that many times we found ourselves staging to launch but ultimately unable to get in the water because the neighborhood or area we were planning to search only needed 15-20 boats and two or three times that many boats staged for the task. That means dozens of trucks pulling every kind of floating contraption lined up on relatively dry Houston streets and roads and waited in line hoping to be able to take off into the floods and bring people out who needed assistance. When the authorities determined that enough boats had launched for that area, everyone else had to find somewhere else to go. Massive resources were wasted with boats lined up in one spot that could've been actively searching somewhere else.

We ran into a couple of guys from the east coast following Zello Cajun Navy reports who at great expense, drove out to help and had not been able to participate for two days because they were trying to stage in spots where the Cajun Navy was being called up. Once the call went out to the Cajun Navy, boats flooded in from all over and you were nearly guaranteed to have more than you needed. In Orange, we ran into a Texas-based rescue outfit, not the Texas Navy but some group who dressed in military duds. We explained that we were heading into one of the neighborhoods along the Sabine to check a report and asked whether they had already checked it or knew anything about it. They hadn't heard that report or checked that area so we were cleared to go in and the leader of the group asked how we heard about the people needing help. When told that we heard it over Zello, he commented to the effect that the Cajun Navy and Zello was kicking their asses in mustering people and boats.

Fun stuff but the reality of the Cajun Navy effort from our standpoint was that a lot of people wasted a lot of time following their channels and maybe better coordination with other groups would've made a smoother effort.

About the Cajun Navy channels on Zello and Zello itself - Over time the effort evolved into one where each affected area had a dedicated channel to direct boaters to those who most needed assistance. This was not true at the start when the Houston channel had reports from all over the Houston area and eventually Beaumont, Port Arthur, Orange and Vidor too. It was tough at first to determine where the person filing the report was located although there was a website we used to guide us that was actively accumulating requests for rescue and pinning them on an active map. This map evolved to eventually drop many of the requests that were determined to be expired due to rescue already happening or floods receding, etc. We chased reports from that map in the areas that we worked and several times found ourselves following an old report that had not been updated. Obviously, the solution to that is to have boaters radio in and update as they visit addresses. Once the large collection of initial reports from those who had been rescued were tagged or removed the site was much more useful.

A big drawback of Zello in our opinion is that it is vulnerable to manipulation by anyone with the app installed. We kept hearing reports of shots fired at rescue boaters, attempts to steal rescuers boats, rescuers being attacked by residents, etc. and I feel that they were almost all false. We staged at Addicks Dam at the same time reports were actively coming in on Zello Houston channel about shots being fired and boaters were encouraged at the staging area there and later at Bass Pro Shops in Katy to be aware that some rescuers had been targeted. While at Addicks Dam staging area none of us, all Texans and familiar with weapons and gunshots, heard anything remotely like a gunshot. In the days that we were there none of us heard a gunshot at all though the reports over Zello made it sound like you might be taking your life into your hands if you tried to rescue in some of these neighborhoods. A number of rescue boaters were armed and as far as I know none of them had to fire a single shot. I could be wrong though.

Along the same lines Zello was full of reports about imminent dam or levee failures. This got really old as we moved from Houston to Beaumont to Orange and kept hearing the same reports of imminent failure from possibly the same person who kept assuring listeners that the Coast Guard was there with him and informing him that people should leave as failure was imminent. Jeez. Give it a rest. I checked maps around Orange and found that there is no large lake or dam or levee just upstream and we radioed to correct the reports letting people know that they likely applied to Addicks Dam in Houston if they applied to anywhere. Within minutes the same guy came on and announced that the failure of the dam was imminent, the Coast Guard had informed him, etc. A lot of bad information and potentially damaging misinformation was spread.

Anyway. We're home now. Rebuilding will take a while. Help if you can.

Massive resources were wasted with boats lined up in one spot that could've been actively searching somewhere else.

I'm on a search & rescue team, and this is usually the chief challenge with "the public" getting involved, there is no established organizational structure. People all mean well, but it is incredibly difficult to utilize a horde of untrained people effectively at the drop of a hat, and it can also make things worse.

Zero criticism of the Cajun Navy et al, sometimes a motley crew is the best you've got and you do the best you can. But if you've ever been turned back when you tried to volunteer for a disaster, this is why.

I wonder if a future extension to ICS/NIMS could be, how to plug in these unconventional resources where professional manpower is insufficient. Develop a 2-minute briefing, a point of contact for unconventional resources to report to, a simplified structure & communication network. The most important concepts are pretty simple, and the first responder doesn't need to know that much about it.

> I wonder if a future extension to ICS/NIMS could be, how to plug in these unconventional resources where professional manpower is insufficient. Develop a 2-minute briefing, a point of contact for unconventional resources to report to, a simplified structure & communication network. The most important concepts are pretty simple, and the first responder doesn't need to know that much about it.

Great idea, but unfortunately when it gets officialized, the lawyers and the bureaucrats get involved and start talking about liability and ways to insert themselves into the situation to profit from it and things quickly gain the complexity of joining the original organization, so it ultimately fails. Maybe I'm too cynical here.

ICS/NIMS trainings are painful to sit through, but in practice it appears pretty agile to me when implemented faithfully.

Instructors will tell you, it's only when you want to be part of the management structure that you really need to know what is going on. Even today, the bottom rung mostly just needs to know where to check in, who they report to, and how to communicate.

I understand your cynicism, and in many places it's applicable. I've noticed however that gov't works developed in the wake of a disaster seems to be pretty solid. Maybe because the project leaders are granted unusual latitude to ignore the lawyers & bureaucrats :)

All things considered, it is in the public interest to allow willing people to spend their time and resources assisting in situations like this. This is possibly the best community-building thing that you can do. Giving everyone regardless of background a stake in surviving something like this can really open up lines of communication that were previously closed by cultural differences or old enmities.

We all came away from this with the feeling that we had done some good for people that really genuinely needed and appreciated outside help. We began actively planning how we could assist the next time something like this happened. We analyzed what we had done and how we did it and identified our own deficiencies and came away resolving to be more prepared.

I think that likely benefits not only us but those who we attempt to assist if there is a next time.

I honestly wasn't trying to knock the Cajun Navy or Zello though it probably reads that way in spots. I'm a consultant in real life and a lot of my work involves identifying logical problems and other deficiencies in my client's operations so that they can focus their improvement efforts where they get the most benefit. Hopefully some of this is useful at some later point.

One thing I forgot to mention that we encountered involves rescuers entering neighborhoods where most residents do not speak English. The 'official' groups we encountered didn't have anyone who could translate English to Spanish or vice versa and thus were unable to understand what problems one potential evacuee needed resolved. Groups should get an introduction to Google Translate or other real-time translation tools so that people who may be in imminent danger can be assisted without having to wait for a translator to arrive.

Houston is a very diverse city culturally with large vibrant populations of people who do not speak or understand English. Once you get into smaller cities you are more likely to find groups where Spanish is the main language. Tools for communication with ALL affected people should be available with all trained, official first responders.

I think your idea about use of unconventional resources is spot on. Most people there with a boat and not part of an official group only wanted to know where they needed to launch or would be allowed to launch and addresses where people were requesting assistance or rescue. I believe a very effective solution to disaster response was demonstrated in Houston and the surrounding area over the last couple of weeks. There are things that could use some polish but overall it is a great model.

One advantage of a trained ham radio operator is that false reports such as you've described are sifted much more thoroughly before being broadcast. Limiting access to the communication channels by requiring licensing is a great way to improve signal to noise ratio.

I agree that trained operators improve the system's ability to handle false input. I'm not sure that requiring licensing for situations like natural disasters is the answer. There will always be people on the ground locally with some of the skills needed to coordinate with dedicated first responders and all of the first-hand knowledge about the status of local infrastructure. Having open, public communication channels for this information to be disseminated probably improves the ability of first responders to direct resources where they are most needed. I think you will always have people ready to inject false or over-hyped reports or who just get emotional and blow things out of proportion. The more people on the ground who can make a report, the easier it will be for a trained first responder to spot and filter reports that clearly are outliers.

Ham operators, I hope, will always be a critical part of the infrastructure. Their ability to relay information when other options are unavailable is very important.

Where there isn't amateur radio available, there's always citizens band. That has a truly terrible (metaphorical) signal-to-noise ratio but it's probably monitored by local police during disasters, not to mention a lot of regular people.

in theory, sure, but unlicensed Ham-capable radios are so cheap nowadays that public repeaters suffer from spam and harassment, just like every other medium.

I have not witnessed much of that, although the couple of cases that I know about were bad for a time.

Why were people lying about rescuers being in danger? Just trolls? I think we would have heard by now if there were pirates out there stealing rescue boats at gunpoint.

Not necessarily lying or trolling. Persons with a low anxiety threshold may post (and re-post) a single report or rumour, not realizing that they thereby create problems rather than assist.

This is probably a part of the answer. Many reports we heard sounded almost like recordings they were so similar. I found myself anticipating some of this dialog just based on previous dialogs. As I noted earlier, when someone tried to inform listeners that the dam failure probably applied to a different geographic area than the one for their channel it was quickly followed by a person repeating that the dam was about to fail, the Coast Guard was right there with him, etc. I decided that someone either had a narrative they wanted to follow or that they didn't realize they were not on the Houston channel any more.

It happened.


The National Guard and Coast Guard are armed and did respond to rescuers being attacked. Not sure if they actually fired back in response, or only forced them to leave.

We saw many official groups - most of the swiftwater rescue teams from central Texas, the National Guard, local fire and police departments, organized volunteer groups including the Texas and Cajun Navies, and the Coast Guard. Of those groups the only ones we encountered who weren't obviously armed were the Coast Guard. They may have had their firearms in their vehicles but they weren't on display.

No one that we talked with fired a shot or was fired at. During the several days that we were down there none of us heard a shot even though at times we were supposedly in the neighborhood where boaters had been attacked. We did find some neighborhoods where civilian boats were not allowed - authorities had blocked access except to Coast Guard, Nat'l Guard or other official group boats. Several of these neighborhoods were along the bayous where a lot of expensive homes were built. It seems unlikely that anyone was going to shoot at a rescuer in those areas.

Thanks for pitching in. Can you talk about the "active map"? Who hosted it, who was able to add or remove a report, etc.?

I know of a few people who worked on maps in Houston (and helped some out in minor ways), but AFAIK there wasn't one single map that "won out".

I was the one who created the Cajun Navy's crowd-sourced rescue mapping strategy, though, while helping out with the 2016 Louisiana floods, so I can give a little insight.

At first, I just saw that people were posting requests for rescue in various Facebook groups and becoming quickly buried under requests by others. So I spent a lot of time combing through the posts and adding the details to a spreadsheet, which I then posted on Batchgeo for rescuers to use.

After that, I started working with the people from one of the Facebook groups who had set up a Google Form for submitting rescue requests, and ended up periodically copying requests over from there.

We also had another form for updates regarding a specific request, and were fielding phone calls from people about it as well.

The original map is actually still up here if interested: https://batchgeo.com/map/984218ef8a04f3587f6e723561501e89

Thanks for your efforts. We ended up using a different map that was very similar to the one you linked.

For Houston or Louisiana? The map I linked (and the bulk of my comment) are about what we did in Louisiana last year. I'm not completely in the know regarding Houston.

Sorry. The map you linked is very similar to the map we used for the Houston/Galveston/Orange areas. The people needing rescue were tagged as in your map and useful info about each location was available, in the map we used, on the left sidebar.

I'm pretty sure I stumbled on a map that was linked through an article I read before we left. I believe the article linked to HarveyRelief or HarveyRescue. It may have been a Buzzfeed article like this one:


The maps are down now as I believe the website went dark once the main flooding danger in Houston was past.

The map appeared to show markers all over the Texas Coast color-coded based on the type of request. The user was able to select a marker and in the left pane a descriptive entry gave information about the address, the number of people requesting rescue including a breakdown of #adults versus #children or elderly. Many posts had telephone contact numbers and each one had an entry from the person requesting assistance granting permission to post their request. Something like an "I Agree" entry after their contact info in the post. I visited the website while it was up and looked at the help request submission part and it was a pretty simple dialog set collecting the needed information along with an "I Agree" or a "Yes" button at the end granting the website the permission to post.

Early problems were predictable. Some of the posts should have been expired because the people had been rescued. Handling the updating of the information required the rescuers to confirm that the people had been rescued so that marker could be cleared. We ended up following several leads that had to be from the previous day. When we arrived at the target address the streets were dry, families were walking pets and kids were riding bikes in the street in one case. A couple of others also involved places where waters had receded and one involved a non-existent address that turned out to be along the beltway between two businesses.

The website did clear many of the older posts and altered the color-coding so it would be clear what you were heading for - medical problem needing assistance, people trapped needing rescue, etc.

It was quite handy. I know there were other maps including one maintained by the Cajun Navy that was similar to the one we used.

There is room for improvement in the maps and in how they coordinate with rescue assets. Timeliness is important and older posts in neighborhoods known to be heavily visited by rescuers should be cross-checked using contact info provided. A lot of traffic on the Cajun Navy channels was people confirming that a rescue needed to happen or that one had already occurred for a particular address.

I believe that the actual requests for assistance on the map I used came from those needing the help since many of them were from someone who was posting for a person needing help who had no access to phone or other communication network. I don't know who had the ability to remove the markers once they were placed but I know that feature by itself needed improvement in tracking rescues that had already occurred.

Lot of misconception on this app that it works without cell service, like a regular walkie talkie.

Does seem like a good idea if Apple or Samsung might build in some point to point radio hardware similar to a Gotenna that's works without cell infrastructure.

Serval actually does this with WiFi mesh networking.


Wifi mesh seems obvious but at 2.4ghz or 5ghz too limited in range.

I was thinking 150Mhz~ MURS like Gotenna for a few miles range.

They have a "Mesh Extender" which uses 900 MHz ISM band radios for ~4 km range, and can be connected to an external HF radio if you have a HAM license. It even implements store-and-forward so you can send messages to people who are wandering in and out of range.

Yes, so the public can spontaneously make their own fully autonomous infrastructure free of financial and political interests. Oh wait. yeah that will never happen.

Holy Crap that's a tough read.

I heard about Zello through this article a couple days ago. I installed it and to be honest it's been kind of interesting to listen to, reminded me of the old days when I wold listen in on my CB radio to the random chatter. I'm not sure how useful it is for actual communication though, it seems like SMS or similar apps are more efficient and let me know I didn't miss anything if I'm away from my phone for a while.

This tool is more useful for immediate communication with 'somebody' not 2 way communication. I listened in to a channel with Irma closing in, and People were asking questions like "I'm on the road, and not going to make it, what is the nearest evacuation center to where I am now?" or important messages were relayed like "We are working at store X, in city Y, and we just got another truck with more bottled water"

Could I ask, what's so bad about going into the attic? Surely that's just one of the easier ways to get out onto the roof?

The end of the article said that family got stuck in the attic and the water rose higher than the roof, drowning them all. That's why.

Depending on the roof construction it may not be that easy. A true least not without tools. And then you're very likely to end up trapped in there and drown if the water level comes up over your roofline

If you have no roof access from the attic, and the water level rises, you are stuck.

Rip away the roofing felt, shove the tiles, then you have a hole. Climb out.

After you've gone through the 3/8"-3/4" plywood/osb that's nailed on well enough to not come of in a hurricane?

My attic at least has several layers of plywood between the airspace and the felt. Probably why you see footage of rescue teams trying to get to the attic from the outside... with axes.

We need ham radio hardware with an iOS interface

It exists. Off the top of my head, Flex SDR radios can be fully network controlled via iOS:


There's other options as well. But I'm not sure how that would help here?

Yeah, it wouldn't really help communicate with the victims in an emergency like this because virtually none of the general public is going to have (and know how to use) specialized equipment that they only need in extremely rare situations. Perhaps equipment could be distributed to the volunteers, but it seems like many of the boat owners already had basic radio capabilities anyway.

I was thinking the same thing. Some way to make radio easier to use etc.

When I first read this thread I was really happy to read so many stories about people flocking to help each other.

But I became almost depressed after reading this https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/10/world/americas/irma-carib...

I've got different meanings for "First World Problems".

Why don't we have people doing this dispatch professionally? What are FEMA and the Red Cross doing if not helping coordinate emergency response when the normal channels are overwhelmed? Don't get me wrong, this person, and all those who aid the rescue efforts, is a hero. Don't the people who do this deserve to get paid and have resources for dealing with PTSD? And don't the victims deserve organized, professional response?

> And don't the victims deserve organized, professional response?

Would you prefer an organized, professional response in two days, or an impromptu Walter-Mitty-wants-to-help response in an hour? I don't think it's ever feasible to rely only on professionals for response to wide-scale events like this. You need neighbors helping neighbors.

Think about whatever naturally sourced neighborhood disruption strikes your area. For us in New England, it's snow storms and ice storms. In a snow storm, I go shovel/snow blow out some neighbors sidewalks and/or cars. In an ice storm, I'll help clear the sidewalks near my house of fallen branches because I have the time and equipment to do so. I'm not about to sign up and attend year-round training or drills on disaster response, as I have other things to do. Instead, I'm going to fire up my chainsaw or snowblower as/when/if I see it's needed to help someone who can't reasonably help themself and when I'm not reasonably needed at work anyway due to the scale of the event.

I think the question is: why should it take two days to get a couple of dispatchers out to a disaster area? As a nation, we put a lot of money into FEMA, etc..., and it's not hard to predict that there will be a need to coordinate volunteers. Why not have a shipping container or two and some people who are in the area before the storm hits? They could a generator, fuel, radios, tents, etc... and put together a small incident response center on the ground before hand. It wouldn't have to be much, just the basics to assess and direct resources available on the ground. I imagine a couple of guys with radios, maps can get a huge amount done towards coordinating volunteers, helping to make things more efficient, and helping people to be safe.

I'm on a volunteer fire department, and have had the same concerns, although on a more local level.

There are absolutely people doing this professionally for organizations like the National Guard, US Navy and other responders https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2017/08/28...

There were even wings from New York and other states who went to Texas just to assist: http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2017/08/31/harvey-helicopter-res...

According to the first article, "We haven’t deployed this many people since World War I. So, this is literally the most we have deployed in 100 years."

It's impossible (or, at least, not anywhere near feasible) to plan for disasters on this scale, and there will probably always be a level of response from people who aren't professionals.

There's also the question of spending resources on mitigation instead of response.

Try to direct development to less vulnerable areas, require flood control planning ahead of building construction, stuff like that.

> Why don't we have people doing this dispatch professionally?

Professionals train and plan to coordinate the work of other professionals. Volunteers from outside that process can supplement their work or serve in other roles entirely.

Your questions imply that there is something wrong with more chaotically organized volunteers supplementing the work of those professionals without close supervision. You couldn't be more wrong. There are plenty of people in need of help to go around, and volunteers might easily reach people who are overlooked or triaged by the professionals during the early stages of recovery.

> What are FEMA and the Red Cross doing if not helping coordinate emergency response when the normal channels are overwhelmed?

I am sure they are all just sitting around since there's basically nothing going on to demand their attention.

> Don't the people who do this deserve to get paid and have resources for dealing with PTSD?

It's the middle of an ongoing disaster. Thank God people are acting and helping rather than pondering these questions...

> And don't the victims deserve organized, professional response?

Limiting the response to organized professionals would be stupid. Turning volunteers into professionals in the midst of a disaster is impossible. It's hard to know what you're on about here.

I'm donating my 38th pint / 17th liter of blood this Friday. I phone banked during the election, participate in two local community organizations, etc. So I'm going to have to ask that you take it on good faith that I believe strongly in both individual and organizational contributions.

My question is, what would have happened if the author hadn't stepped up to do dispatch? You would have had people searching blindly street by street, not knowing where they were needed. I am not for one second advocating that neighbors (or strangers) don't step up to help when needed, even at great personal risk.

By all reports the disorganized response ended up working well in difficult circumstances. But when (not if) there is an earthquake in a major city, this level of response is going to cost many lives. You will have a million people in need of food, water, and medical attention. There will be no power (let alone cellular service or Internet needed to run an app). There will be no gasoline because the pipelines will be out of service and a good number of the refineries are near fault lines. And you will have no warning.

We spend a trillion dollars a year on the Defense Department (and before anyone asks, I support that, too) that can, as noted elsewhere, project military force almost anywhere in the world, within hours. It's justifiably marveled at for its capability. Why can't we make it a national goal to get 911 up and running in a disaster zone in our own country within a similar time period?

I used the word heroes to describe the volunteers, your interpretation that I could possibly have been opposed them contributing is uncharitable at best.

> My question is, what would have happened if the author hadn't stepped up to do dispatch?

Some other solution would have emerged, or the volunteers would have proceeded with a lower level of coordination.

> You would have had people searching blindly street by street, not knowing where they were needed.

I expect you saw plenty of this in the last week, even with a relatively good communication network in place. It's not necessarily a big problem. It would be a mistake for rescuers on the ground to assume that their dispatchers are omnipotent and to only proceed based on what they're told via radio. You would miss everyone in need of help who was unable to communicate out.

> Why can't we make it a national goal to get 911 up and running in a disaster zone in our own country within a similar time period?

I feel your comments are grounded in an overestimation of the importance of universally available centralized realtime control in disaster response. That is something we've never had in a genuinely large disaster that takes out a lot of infrastructure.

The closest we have to universally available communications is actually Amateur Radio networks. I'm all for spreading that hobby among high school students and encouraging more people to volunteer.

We could also do the 911 whatever technological thing you have in mind, but we should proceed with the understanding that we will encounter disasters big enough to knock it over.

If you are waiting for FEMA to save you your chances of survival go down dramtically. Chances are a neighbour or an average person will be there over a federal agency.

The Red Cross is a different story altogether. During the last few crisises they were caught asking for money but never spending it but kept up asking for it. Charity hording for lack of a better term means other smaller locally based charities don't receive the support they really need.

> And don't the victims deserve organized, professional response?

Frankly, there is never enough money to hire enough people to do all the work. This is the US and we have a long tradition of neighbor helping neighbor. Many of the "amateur" responses are professional grade people. Many areas of the country are covered by volunteer fire departments.

The Red Cross often banks the money, and people should really read the authorizing legislation for FEMA since it is a more limited organization than many think.

There are 3.5 million people working full-time for the US Department of Defense (including contractors but not the reserves). Wouldn't it make sense to train a few thousand of them to make sure there is efficient dispatch of rescues? I'm extremely glad the Cajun Navy was there, please don't misunderstand. I think they would have been an essential part of the response under any circumstances. It's just that they would have been able to do more if there was effective triage of calls; in the article many of the victims were unable to get 911 to pick up. The ad hoc system (which, again, was extremely impressive and valuable) worked but not as well as having a single point of dispatch, where you could target the people who were in their attic before the ones who were in less precarious situations.

Not that the pros are necessarily in good shape themselves. On 9/11 the NYC emergency command center was located in the towers and there was extensive compatibility problems with radio communication. Or the firefighters after the Loma Prieta quake who rushed to help only to find they couldn't use the hydrants. But shouldn't we, as a country, resolve that in a major disaster we'll at least have enough people and communications infrastructure on the ground to coordinate the local resources? Especially one like Harvey where you have a 48-hour forecast with a small error.

> Wouldn't it make sense to train a few thousand of them to make sure there is efficient dispatch of rescues?

Why DoD? You might as well double train all the Fish & Wildlife people. The US has a long tradition of volunteers and they are enthusiastic and fairly effective. Single point of dispatches fail, badly. Its in the national character of the US. Having the government do everything isn't.

> Why don't we have people doing this dispatch professionally?

We do, but what this showed was that the different levels have different uses.

Local levels are distributed and have better latency--they can get to the most immediate problem fastest. National levels are centralized and a little slower but have way better throughput--they can help massive amounts of people over time.

I'm not sure why you got downvoted, perhaps downvoters would chime in?

I get that local organizations deal with some situations better than some large, clumsy bureaucracy but I tend to agree with wnissen, if this continues as trend relying on a patchwork of individuals (heroic as they may be).

I wish there was a non-military or less-military domestic version of this, I've considered joining the national guard for this reason but I'm don't trust that I wouldn't end up fighting and dying in a pointless war. If there was another volunteer force that was devoted to humanitarian issues and search and rescue I would be all for it.

Isn't that about the Red Cross? (which has its own issues around funding efficiency)

Or the Civil Air Patrol? Or (less military, not non-military) US Coast Guard?

The Red Cross doesn’t do rescues. They come in after the fact generally to both help people and plan their next fundraiser. It still takes time to deploy people.


Not entirely non-military, but typically IIRC military aspects are almost entirely defense only.. so for example barring a USA invasion, or perhaps a complete depletion of the entire national guard system, you're not going to war.


clearly involved in this case.

> I wish there was a non-military or less-military domestic version of this, I've considered joining the national guard for this reason but I'm don't trust that I wouldn't end up fighting and dying in a pointless war. If there was another volunteer force that was devoted to humanitarian issues and search and rescue I would be all for it.

You're basically describing the Coast Guard. I believe they do hire reservists.

The Coast Guard is not the pacifist organization you seem to imagine it to be. They also combat smuggling, illegal migration, and terrorism. Also, they can be called to provide defense of the maritime borders of the United States. It is every bit of a military organization as the Army or Navy, even if not as well respected.

Your comment is full of misconceptions. I never claimed the Coast Guard was a "pacifist organization," and the person I was responding to was, when asking for a "not military or less military" option, wasn't asking for one. And I certainly respect them as much as any other branch of the armed forces. Right now, immediately after a natural disaster, I'm sure I'm not the only one.

The Germans seem to have an interesting middle ground with a government-funded/sponsored volunteer disaster relief organization: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technisches_Hilfswerk

It seems like its size may have been supplemented by serving as an alternative to conscription, however.

> It seems like its size may have been supplemented by serving as an alternative to conscription, however.

There's no conscription anymore though, and given the short serving time of 9 months at the end of "civil-service" (the alternative to conscription), that shouldn't play a role anymore.

I think it's a fair question. I suspect the answer is just that it's not economically practical to be professionally prepared for eventualities of this scale. Like small towns with volunteer fire departments, there just isn't enough activity to keep a professional staff employed - at least not a staff big enough to handle a disaster of this magnitude. How many 911 dispatchers would you need? Can the (expensive, purpose-built, locally scoped) infrastructure sustain the volume?

I actually think this is pretty reasonable. We're too used to thinking that bad things are Someone Else's Responsibility. Maybe general-purpose tools (internet, walkie-talkie apps) combined with a sense of civic duty are the solution we should embrace, perhaps with a bit more public training (ala volunteer fire departments).

I wonder to what extent the right question is how you stop people from jumping on Zello and trying to help.

My town experienced a disaster a few years ago and volunteers responded with heavy equipment to help within an hour. FEMA took 3 days and there was nothing left to do. I'm not going to go as far as saying FEMA should just be disbanded, but stopping volunteers from helping after just reading the story you read? I'm not sure what that's supposed to achieve.

My post is phrased as a response to the post it is attached too, focusing on the questions about victims deserving a professional response and responders deserving pay and such.

I would be all for stopping volunteers from trying to do rescues (and coordination) if there is evidence that they don't really improve outcomes. For instance, in the article the author helps get information to the Coast Guard, but the better solution there is to make people more aware of the Coast Guard having call centers and to make sure those call centers have capacity, not to have random people passing info along.

Clean up and restoration, not so much, if people want to help with that, whatever.

This was the largest disaster in US history and it changed rapidly over the course of 72 hours. In instances like this the ability to tap into the resiliency and adaptability of ordinary citizens is a great advantage. I would like to see more done by the government to enable and support (perhaps even professionalize) the spontaneous engagement of ordinary citizens in emergency situations rather than staffing excess disaster management capacity only to be used once every 5 years.

Would it be better to quadruple the size of FEMA or train more Americans in CPR, hypothermia, how to react in a flood, how to prioritize casualties, how to interact with others and coordinate, etc...

I'm curious about this being the largest disaster in US history. Can you expand on that? Largest by what metrics?

How do you scale that in a hurry? Do you have people doing this full time sitting idle waiting for a full scale disaster to hit? You already have the National Guard, but how can that force cover an area the size of the Netherlands — with a thousand boats ready to go? Texas had literally thousands of rescues. It’s ridiculous to suggest that any government force can deploy a force large enough to handle that within a day. Even the military would have a tough time blanketing an area that large with everything needed in time. Ranger battalions could secure an airport size area within 18 hours notice on the other side of the world, but this emergency covered a land area about 3000 times the size of the Houston airport. We are talking about thousands of troops not to mention the logistical requirements — as well as a considerable need for local knowledge as well.

This is the difference between Americans and many other cultures — there is a sense of self-reliance that often doesn’t exist in other places. Many people would prefer to let the government handle it as if the government was some omnipotent force with infinite resources that are positioned exactly in the right place: like battalions of Rangers sitting in a C130 at Hunter Army Airfield just waiting to drop into action. People underestimate the logistics of massive rescue operations.

Also, a practical question: how do you deploy 1000 boats instantly? Air drops? Does the government just have thousands of boats staged across the country with thousand of qualified operators ready to jump into action?

Americans as a culture are different — they don’t sit around waiting for “official” help — they jump into action. I’d personally rather count on some redneck with a boat than just hope government comes through. While bureaucrats are figuring out what to do, old Jimbo with his swamp boat is already in the water en route.

That’s America. You don’t have to agree with it, you don’t have to like it, but Harvey was a great example of the American spirit in action: neighbors helping neighbors — even local businesses, like Houston’s largest furniture store, opening their doors to help. In France, you would never see an IKEA or Auchan opening their doors to those in need during a disaster, you’d never see a virtual armada of volunteers ready to jump into action. During the great Europe flood of 2016, people died in their homes — wouldn't they have loved to have the Cajun Navy? In Triftern, Germany, 250 students were trapped in a school for 24 hours — I bet they would have liked to have some rednecks with swamp boats.

I am not arguing against government disaster response, I am arguing that in times of disaster, Americans, especially in the South, are proud to jump into action. Lives were saved because a whole bunch of people decided to act.

You might not see an IKEA opening its doors (edit: it looks like the IKEA in Houston isn't doing much either...) but individuals in France were literally "opening their doors to help" [1]

Likewise in London, a waiter held a door to keep terrorists out [2] and people again opened their doors to let visitors to the city stay [3]. The US does not have a monopoly on "the people" looking after themselves.

1: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/attack-in-par...

2: http://metro.co.uk/2017/06/06/waiter-blocks-door-to-stop-ter...

3: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jun/04/sofaforlondo...

There is play, called "Come From Away" about Canadians in Gander opening their homes, churches and schools to displaced Americans (and others) during 9/11 when planes were redirected rather than being allowed into US airspace. 16 years ago.

I'm always amazed at how willing some Americans are to attribute basic human traits to "American Exceptionalism" and then deny those traits to peoples from other countries.

Hundreds of people opened their home in October 2015 after the huge rainstorm and floods in Cannes and Biot. Several supermarket (Carrefour and Intermarché for sure) delivered tons of food to the people there.

Hundreds of people opened their home on July 14 2016 after the terrorist attack in Nice. Same in Paris before that. And same in Barcelona this summer.

While it's true that American people jump into action, it's just wrong, and immensely disrespectful of the people who helped, to say the same doesn't happen in France or in other countries.

Germany opened its home to a million Syrian refugees in 2015/16............

while I will agree this is a great example of how USAians, esp Texans will band together as others have pointed out, being a human is not really something we have a monopoly on here..

as for 'the south':

see also sandy recovery efforts

see also people getting shot when they shouldn't have in nola for being in the wrong neighborhood and having the wrong skin color..

that said, we do have more boats, monster trucks, jetskis, and guns, and arent afraid to use them (even to rescue national guard trucks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HAvNd7eH9MA)

Why the down votes? Reread several times but couldn't understand the problem

Go back and everywhere you see "America" or "Americans" substitute "Iran" or "Iranian" and see if you have an epiphany.

I don't know why you were downvoted. This was a great comment.

He was down-voted as he was implying that this is an American only phenomenon, which couldn't be further from the truth.

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