Sunday, November 1, 2015

It's A Matter Of Using Social Media during an Emergency....

This is a road that I used to drive on to go in to town when I lived in South Carolina.  If you look closely, you will see that the workers are standing near the edge of a big flood.  Just know that there are several lanes of road under the water.  This is a major thoroughfare in Columbia SC.  The flooding took place in early October.  I wrote about this topic somewhat in this post.  

I had the opportunity to go down to the impacted areas of Columbia as I happened to be visiting.  I also know many good people who are helping those who have been displaced.  I have watched in awe as so many service-oriented individuals have jumped in to help in a variety of ways.  How did everyone know what to do and what to donate?  It has been done and continues to be done with Social Media.

Social Media during an Emergency....

Within days, the S.Beltline Community had a Facebook page up and running. After posting pictures of the flooding and damage, they started posting needs. Here is one of the first posts from this community:

Here are some of the early posts from this group of volunteers:  (These posts were put up within a couple of days after the flooding).

"We will be starting our first Community Tent today around 10:00 this morning at the corner of Glenhaven and Whispering Pines Circle. PLEASE PARK at the Pinewood Baptist Temple at 1510 S Beltline Blvd, Columbia, SC 29205. It's a short block down Glenhaven to check-in at the Community Tent."
"FANS, FANS, FANS! We need FANS - box fans or commercial grade- we REALLY need these to air out several homes. And if you have an extension cord, PLEASE bring it too! Pls put your name on anything you bring so it gets back to you! When you sign in at the Community Tent, we will do our best to note any items you bring as a reminder. THANK YOU!"
We desperately need a SUMP PUMP ASAP!! House has 4 ft of standing water in a house on Timberlane!!

Magically, people and needed items began to appear. These are brand new fans that were just dropped off for anyone who may have needed them.

Just one day later, the needs list grew:

After you drop off items, PLEASE park at Palmetto Baptist Temple at the end of Glenhaven!! There will be many more commercial crews on the street that will need access to houses/street parking.
Friday will be a BIG sorting, cleaning & demo day, so we'd love to have ALL HANDS ON DECK! smile emoticon
#1 Need - **PLASTIC BINS - assorted sizeds for packing salvaged items (stand up better with damp items)
*PU trucks for moving salvaged furniture/items
*Wheelbarrows (we promise to give them back when you leave!!)
*HAND SANITIZER (never enough....)
*Push Brooms
*"TO-GO" meal containers so volunteers can take meals directly to the residents
*Packing tape "guns" for tape rolls we have or individual packing tape dispensers w/serated cutting edge
*Heavy duty work gloves
**Latex & non-latex gloves (everything is still pretty wet)
**SIZE 12 / LARGE Ladies clothing (loose fitting/comfortable)
**DIET & REGULAR SOFT DRINKS (for caffiene and variety)
We hope to see you soon! 
Who are these people coordinating and working together?  Which government agency is managing all of these needs?  NONE!  These are volunteers from Columbia and the surrounding communities.

Requests for Hard Hats, Wheel Barrows, N95 masks, Gloves, food, and hand sanitizer were constant.  The need for Volunteers was mounting...

The Sewer Treatment Plant had also flooded.  This meant that sewage was mixing with the Flood were 'critters' such as snakes.  Volunteers had to be very careful to protect themselves.
PLEASE READ THIS ONE AND PASS ALONG: I spoke with (individual)  this morning. Her husband has been very involved in getting medical care for volunteers. She wants me to share that if you've been working in and around these contaminated waters and you have any doubt at all about your last tetanus, you need to head over and get a booster. This is for anyone who needs it. Help me share this with various work site pages.
2 hrs ago- Columbia, SC ·
Wound care and tetanus shot updates continue SATURDAY and SUNDAY from 9 am until 8 pm. If you have any sort of cut or scratch from cleanup work AND it's been 5 years since your last shot, come get one. 4811 Devereaux Road, 29205.
Shout out to great workers from Palmetto Health, Columbia Fire Department, and Richland County EMS!

Local businesses provided food to those who were impacted and the volunteers.

Here is a post from a local Volunteer:
"Spent the afternoon with my daughter handing out water to residents in some severely affected neighborhoods near Midlands Tech. Many of the residents were Spanish speakers, so I called my Son at BYU and asked him to talk to the Hispanic people and ask them what they need. (One man told my Son he was hungry, so I called Marco's Pizza on Rosewood and they delivered a dozen FREE pizzas that my daughter and I handed out with the water. 
Then we went back to get more water and made 2 more trips to Marco's and picked up another 40 or so pizzas and distributed those to citizens in need. 
Super Kudos to Marco's Pizza, who made no attempt to sell pizza, but used all their supplies on hand and made hundreds of pizzas that were given to hungry people!!"
The next day....

"So, after the cool experience yesterday, decided to do more of the same today. Loaded up with water and headed out to the same apartment complex -- armed with 30 Chick-Fil-A sandwiches -- thanks Chris Eckert and Christopher Callaway at the Garners Ferry Road store. Took the Spanish-speaking LDS missionaries with me and we found several groups of Spanish-speaking people in their apartments (multiple families) and gave them food and water. Then we invited others to come to the Church later and we'd have more food. We fed about 30 people at the Church with food prepared and delivered by the Spanish group of the Church at Windsor Lake
I restocked with 10 pizzas from Ci Ci's on Garners Ferry (thanks Juan!) and fed folks at the Church and went back into the apartment complexes. 
Also got donated food from PDQ (thanks Michael .... and Tim Tebow, whom I found out is one of the investors).
People were so gracious and humbled by the help, and I just really enjoyed seeing their smiles." 
Meetings were set up to work with the City, County, and Federal programs. All were advertised in social media:

We have been providing DSNAP information for over a week. If you are in Richland County and want to apply, DSS says here is when/where you need to go:
Week of November 2 – 6:
Word of God Church and Ministries
119 Diamond Lane...See More

South Carolina residents who lost property or income due to this month’s historic flooding are now eligible…
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As you might expect....there were rumors that needed to be addressed:

There are many rumors and myths that are percolating out there. Here are some FACTS about rebuilding, permits, etc. 
1. FEMA has NOT moved the flood plain as a result of this flood. FEMA and Richland County GIS show the 2002 FEMA flood zones. Some floodplain areas were revised in late October 2014 and again in August 2015, so determining whether your property was included or excluded from the 100 year flood zone as a result of these revisions could mean the difference of what type of permit you need and whether you have to bring your property up to code and raise it. 
2. No final decisions have been made about who can and who can't rebuild. The County has not committed to nor started the process for buying out properties. 
3. As for whether your house must be raised/brought up to current Code depends on whether you are in the 100 year floodplain and if so, whether your expense to return the home to its ore-flood condition exceeds 50% of the fair market value of your building/home. You may be required to get an Elevation Certificate, which must be prepared and certified by a Licensed Land Surveyor, Registered Professional Engineer or Registered Architect who is authorized by state or local law to certify elevation information. The certificate is used to confirm whether you are in the 100 year floodplain. Because the value-to-expense calculation will vary per property, each "rebuild/raise" determination will be different. 
4. If the homeowner has decided to relocate instead of rebuild, that changes the direction for FEMA, so residents need to give that info to FEMA if they have already made that decision. Then an SBA team takes your case to pursue their mortgage loan option for the house you choose for relocation. Your current mortgage lender(s), if you have mortgage(s), will need to be involved in the process should you not have enough money to payoff your existing mortgage(s) [short-sale]. 
5. If you are in the 100-year floodplain, you will need an estimate from a licensed residential or general contractor in order to pull a permit and perhaps more depending on whether your property is in the City of Columbia. If you hire a licensed contractor, which officials recommend, they will pull the permit instead of the homeowner.  
6. Regardless of who pulls the permit, all mechanical tradesmen (subs like HVAC, plumbing, electrical, roofing, etc.) will also have to pull a SEPARATE permit if your house is in the floodplain.  
7. Inspections for substantially damaged structures are tentatively set to begin this week for Richland County properties. These are done in conjunction with FEMA using 4-person "teams." All Richland County inspectors will be in Richland County vehicles. Before allowing anyone in your home, county officials recommend that you get a picture of the inspector, their ID badge and business cards. If they will not provide this or if you have any question about the inspectors or the inspection, Richland County officials suggest you call (803) 929-6000 ASAP to verify.  
8. If you are in a condo or town home that shares common walls and/or roof, FEMA considers the entire building as a WHOLE. They do not look at these as individual units even though they have different tax numbers. If one of those units is in a flood plain, then the entire building is considered to be in the flood plain. 
9. There are opportunists and ne'er-do-wells popping up everywhere saying their business has "permits" to begin work. Those with hanging "city" tags are NOT city employees and they do NOT have permits. Those "city tags" are merely business licenses they have to buy in order to solicit their services. The City and County HAVE NOT ISSUED ANY PERMITS TO BEGIN WORK IN OUR AREA. 
10. The green and yellow signs the County stapled on doors do NOT have anything to do with determinations for rebuilding, etc. Those signs were posted after a preliminary inspection to say whether or not it was safe to enter or inhabit the house. 
10. The valuation of your home/damage is determined locally using FEMA's inspection process based on an upcoming inspection of your property. Who handles the valuation and permitting depends on whether your property is located within the City. If it is, then you will apply for permits with the City. If you are not in a municipality (unincorporated), then the County will handle your permitting. 
11. Don't even think about starting work without a permit! This could cause your permitting fee to as much as DOUBLE, delay your rebuild and seriously affect your ability to sell or insure your home in the future.  
12. For more information on permits for unincorporated properties located in Richland County, go to…/BuildingCodesI…/Permits.aspx  
13. For information on permits for floodplain properties within the City of Columbia, go to

Each day, the needs are posted from tearing out, removing debris etc.  (This load of Plywood was donated to help the displaced families comply with the legal  requirement to board up their homes). Just to get a feel for the current needs, here is a list of wanted items/volunteers that was  posted for today (Sunday 11/1/15)

SUNDAY'S NEEDS: LESS RAIN!!!URGENT NEED: VOLUNTEERS!! Come help us hang the plywood and finish debris cleanup!! We will also have donation sorting and boxing.PLEASE DROP OFF all donations @ 100 WHISPERING PINES CIRCLESTILL NEEDED:Gallon-sized zip lock bagsWindow cleanerDishwashing liquidClothes detergent pods(easier to separate than liquid or powder)BroomsHandles for 12 oz. mop headsHand sanitizer (8-10 oz)Children & Adult underwear & socks(All sizes)Baby food -VegetablesMany thanks to all the angels who appear with these items throughout the day.Our volunteer crews have been working day/night + in the rain to help the residents of MORE THAN 50 homes + apartments with their tear outs, debris removal, water and mold abatement! And we will not stop helping them recover. ‪#‎laboroflove‬ ‪#‎southbeltlinestrong‬ ‪#‎floodfamily‬ ‪#‎floodfriends‬

There are so many types of service being offered.  Last night the volunteers hosted a Trunk-or-Treat event for the families that had been displaced.  (This picture makes me weep...)

Take home message.....

  • This community did not wait for the Governmental Authorities to come. They saw a need, organized themselves, and reached out to the community.
  • These folks used Social Media to share needs and requests for help.  The people in the immediate area were asked to share this page to inform others about what the needs were and how they could help.  It had hundreds of 'likes' in a short period of time and now has nearly 2,000 likes. (By clicking 'like' folks can see the posts from this Service Group).
  • I witnessed cars driving past and dropping off needed items.  Volunteers from many Churches, College Students, groups from other cities (Spartanburg, etc) and States (I saw a group from Alabama). Folks were coming from all across the country to help.  
  • Thousands of hours of volunteered service have cleaned out homes, helped remove debris, set up a make-shift store where all items are free (clothing, diapers, furniture, appliances), and this weekend are putting up plywood over doors and windows.
  • These volunteers have committed to stay here and help for the long haul.

St. Matthew 25:40  "...Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

I am grateful for the tremendous service and sacrifice these volunteers are offering folks they often don't even know.  I feel blessed to witness this miracle unfolding through the use of social media.  The "Class" being taught by this group of volunteers continues to be in session... May the Lord Bless them all in their continued efforts to serve their fellow man. 

If you are in a position to help financially, please go here:

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