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World Wide Help Blog: A Go-To Site for Disaster Help and Information

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Imagine there is a flood, an earthquake, or a terrorist attack, or, as we had in December 2004, a tsunami. All of your family lives in the city in crisis, but you are far away, perhaps in the U.S. or the U.K. As is common during these disasters, the phone lines are the first to suffer and so your primary mode of contact with your family and friends breaks down. You are desperate to talk to someone in your circle, to make sure everyone is all right, but you cannot get through.

So what do you do?

You log on to World Wide Help.

World Wide Help (WWH) is run by the World Wide Help Group, many of whose members operated the South East Asian Earthquake And Tsunami Blog (SEA EAT) in the wake of the December 2004 tsunami that ravaged major parts of southeast Asia.

SEA EAT was founded by Mumbai-based Peter Griffin, who subsequently started two new collaborative blogs to assist residents of Mumbai following the July 2005 floods – Cloudburst Mumbai (with Sunil Nair) and Mumbai Help (MH) (with Amit Varma). They are both repositories of information and a means to reach loved ones in times of emergency in Mumbai. The list of contributors has steadily grown over the last year and includes some of the best bloggers in the Indian blogosphere.

WWH (whose motto is "Using the web to point help in the direction where it's most needed") posts regular updates on disasters around the world and also provides links to blogs that have been set up for providing information regarding disasters in certain cities (such as Mumbai and New Orleans). In the event of a disaster, your first stop would be the WWH and, if your city has a blog, you would go on to locate it.

Once you get to a blog, such as Mumbai Help, you will find not only the latest information regarding the disaster, but also contact information for hospitals, emergency services, pharmacies, government agencies, and NGOs.

But the most vital service the blogs perform is one where they try to put family members and friends in touch with each other, or at least try to get messages across to one another.

Following yesterday's blasts on the Mumbai trains, Mumbai Help put up a post that simply asked "How Can We Help You?" And people asked for help, people from all over. They asked if MH contributors could help them reach their parents, their children, their brothers and sisters, their friends. And many calls and SMSs later, there were numerous relieved comments thanking the folks at MH. Family had been located, friends had been found.

It must just feel so good to have someone call and ask if everything is okay because your brother or mother or son or friend wants to know but they cannot reach you. And it must feel just as good to hear that everything's fine. Most cases turn out this way. There are a few, however, in which the people cannot be reached, but the contributors at MH left numerous messages of encouragement, holding hands as it were, reassuring worried commenters that people would be located, would turn up.

Humanity, compassion, empathy.

In the end, that is what World Wide Help is all about. It is not about the technology, the blogs, the comments, the wikis. It is, quite simply, an example of humanity shining through and breaking barriers of time, distance, and borders.

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About Sujatha Bagal

  • I think the ‘Mumbai Help’ team has done highly commendable work.

    However, here is a thought I would like to share.

    I came to know about ‘Mumbai Help’ only through a TV news channel. If it were not for the TV channel, I would never have come to know about it.

    This is in spite of the fact that I am an active netizen, and for the past few days, have also been writing a blog on the same website i.e. Blogger.Com.

    I have no solutions. However, if all those who happen to read this think about it, a solution might emerge.

  • Antone P. Braga

    Hello Fellow Policyholder!

    The millions of people each year who suffer disasters such as earthquake, hurricane, fire and flood are generally surprised to find disasters happen not to just other people. Probably the most difficult aspect following a disaster is in having to enter the realm of the unknown. Under the circumstances most people are not psychologically up to the task. It is very common to see people in a state of shock, confusion and helplessness. Those who are objective, informed and prepared are inclined to be more emotionally level and competent.

    In the past, disaster psychology has focused mainly on the response and recovery phases of emergencies. I believe that addressing emotional issues of preparedness along side the physical facets is a worthwhile area in which to focus. The age old proverb is as true today as it ever has been, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Below are some recommendations.

    Reduce the emotional impact of loss through 7 simple steps:

    * 1) ANTICIPATE – Consider the natural range of feelings people likely experience when they survive a disaster, which range from, “I’m overwhelmed…I don’t know whom to trust…I’ve panicked…I can’t cope…”; to the other end of the spectrum, “I’m well prepared…I’m competent…I’ll get through this…I’m in control.” Anticipate that helpless feelings and most reactions to disaster can be managed.

    * 2) REDUCE ANXIETY – Emphasize reducing anxiety through good preparedness. Take on manageable projects, don’t spread yourself too thin, and learn to say no when you feel under pressure. Talking about preparedness for potential emergencies will decrease anxiety or panic. Remember, research supports that solid information is the antidote to panic. Be aware of using extreme expressions such as: must, always, never, awful or disastrous. Allow yourself some time to relax every day. When feeling anxious ask yourself what you can do to change that feeling. Know that having well grounded information is a way to decrease anxiety.

    * 3) PRACTICE STRESS REDUCTION – Some methods to reduce stress are: learn to increase relaxation to a higher level, routinely take deep, regular breaths, take warm baths, count to 10 as a way to step away from non-emergency stressful moments, commune with nature, meditate, day dream of a personal relaxation scene, maintain good nutrition, adopt regular aerobic exercise, get massages from a skilled therapist. Another practical calming technique is to create a mantram–the practice of repeating over and over in the mind such as, “By night and by day, I am being prospered in all my interests.” This is most effective when dozing off to sleep–when the conscious thought is giving way to the subconscious mind. Repetition of the phrase has an immediate calming effect and is a way to program the subconscious to carry out an ongoing instruction for behavior even without conscious thought after a period of a week or two. The subconscious will usually sort out what is or is not really in your interest and proceed to have you act more in that way. This is also a tool for changing undesirable habits. Please see http://www.disasterprepared.net/goalmind.html for more information on the power of the subconscious mind. Since stress-reducing methods take time to become ingrained, they must be learned and practiced in advance.

    * 4) GET THE FAMILY INTO ACTION – Get family members prepared for emergencies. Discuss a plan of action, and have a disaster supplies kit: water, food, first aid supplies, clothing and bedding, tools and emergency supplies, and special items for medical conditions. Talk about the importance of being prepared. Remain objective and informative. Focus on active disaster preparedness everyone can begin right now.

    * 5) PROTECT THE FAMILY’S ASSETS – The prospect of losing one’s home and possessions is highly stressful even if covered by insurance. Become accustomed to the concept that a property insurance claim is a business recovery issue, considering the family’s assets and losses to be the “corporation” that will need recovery. Adjusters on the other side of the table know they will be negotiating a business transaction, and so should you. To have this awareness beforehand can help protect your interest, and improve your negotiating ability.

    * 6) MAINTAINING CONTROL – Disasters are an experience of losing control…control over just about everything. Keep at-the-ready now, how to calculate, prepare and settle property insurance claims. Much the same as one keeps a dictionary for reference, have a book containing fundamental information you need, like rules that govern companies’ behavior, claim values, your rights and responsibilities, and adjusters’ jargon. Have a basic understanding how to determine what you are entitled to under your property insurance policies (home, business, auto, boat, etc.) so you know what to expect. The book is available in major bookstores via the Web:

    * 7) A JOB WELL DONE! – Give yourself the reinforcement of a pat on the back and take pride in the accomplishment of being prepared. Preparedness IS peace of mind and brings with it comfort in knowing you are well prepared to cope. Remember that increased readiness is a powerful tool to promote self-reliance in a household, neighborhood, or community and contributes to an internal sense of mastery and confidence.

    For further support visit: disasterprepared.net

    *Although the cumulative work of the psychology profession provided the nucleus, it is the need for disaster emotional preparedness and dissemination of information to the public that germinated the seed. The following references helped make this article a reality: “The Power of Your Subconscious Mind,” by Dr. Joseph Murphy, DRS, PhD, DD, LLD; Dr. Deborah Bier, PhD; Holtz Psychological Services, PC; Dr. Andrew Weil, MD; Justin Becker; Mind Tools, LTD; American Red Cross.
    © 2006 Antone P. Braga

    Thank you…regarding your vital information on Preparedness…you covered much of what is needed to prepare. In particular…useful information for people to have in terms of property insurance and business recovery issues…a good reminder of ways of helping prevent stress by Preparedness. Good Luck with your book.

  • Hello,

    I hope to introduce information into the main stream that helps prevent stress by preparedness.

    As a point of reference, I have been fortunate to receive the following endorsement: “Thank you…regarding your vital information on Preparedness…In particular…useful information for people to have in terms of property insurance and business recovery issues…a good reminder of ways of helping prevent stress by Preparedness… ”

    My link information is shown below. Thank you for any help you can give.



    Disaster Preparedness Description: Ways to Improve Disaster Preparedness – BRACE YOURSELF Reduce the Emotional Impact of Loss