Tech President on Occupy SMS: How Text Messaging Can Help in Disaster Relief


TechPresident has a great piece about the OccupySMS campaign, which uses text messaging to connect people in need after Hurricane Sandy with people who have the resources to help. The article discusses how, like many of the best ideas, Occupy SMS was built to fill a need:

“It started with our actual experience in the Rockaways. We had brought a generator and a pump,” said Stephanie Shih, founder of Occupy SMS, “but unfortunately none of the volunteers had a database of who needed to be pumped. We had to go door to door [with the heavy and expensive equipment] to see if people needed to be pumped, which was really inefficient.”

As a result, Occupy SMS set up a system wherein people who had been affected by Sandy could text in their needs, and be matched with volunteers who texted in their capabilities. The system has now expanded beyond just pumping to also include house repairs, food, and cleaning. (Read more about Occupy SMS here.)

By providing an easy resource for people to communicate that they need help, Occupy SMS makes it easy for organizations to reach those off the beaten path. As the article explains:

“We also found that volunteers were sticking to the main distribution hubs or places near the main strip where they had been as a beach tourist,” Shih said. “Further away the poorer areas weren’t getting as much attention and those were really the people who needed the help. We wanted to use this app to encourage people to travel from the blocks that they are used to out to Far Rockaway and Breezy Point.”

Thousands of people have used the application so far. If you need services post-Sandy in the New York City metro area, text SANDY to 69866. If you are able to help, text MUTUALAID to 69866. More information can be found at

Read the full Tech President article here.

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