NEW HAVEN, CT — It isn’t just public works crews and utility workers who have had little sleep since Tuesday’s late-afternoon storm hit Connecticut — New Haven-based SeeClickFix has been swamped helping municipalities deal with power outages and downed trees.
SeeClickFix.com was originally built as a disruptive way for constituents to report nuisance, non-emergency problems to government officials, and to hold them accountable. The company has since grown out of its New Haven origins to cover thousands of towns and neighborhoods both in the United States and across the world. In the past year SeeClickFix software has become a critical tool to help hurricane-ravaged areas in Texas and Florida.
But on Tuesday and Wednesday, SeeClickFix’s 35 workers were doing their best much closer to their Chapel Street office.
“The volume of requests definitely increases during a storm,” SeeClickFix co-founder and CEO Ben Berkowitz said Wednesday. “The photos that come in are typically staggering.”
“We’ll see more (requests) over the coming days if the clean-up takes a while,” Berkowitz added.
SeeClickFix allows users to report non-emergency problems from downed trees to clogged sewers to graffiti, potholes, or even chronic speeding. They can use either the mobile app or a desktop web browser. Local officials monitor the site and receive notifications in order to respond to problems reported, and also directly to the person reporting.
While SeeClickFix initially aligned itself as a free tool for news organizations and residents, today it pays most of its bills by working with municipalities directly — contracting with them as a request and work management software system to find and solve neighborhood problems.
Municipalities have willingly signed on with SeeClickFix after finding the company does a better job than cities themselves handling citizen complaints.
Among its nine Connecticut clients is the town of Hamden, which signed up with SeeClickFix a few months ago.
Hamden was one of the town’s hit hardest by Tuesday’s storm.
The National Weather Service sent a team to assess damage in Connecticut, with a focus on Hamden, Brookfield, Cheshire, Danbury, Durham, Bethany, New Milford, Newtown, Oxford, Ridgefield, Southbury, and Winsted.
Hamden Mayor Curt Leng kept residents updated on road closings and power outages on social media.
On the town’s website page, a statement late Wednesday said: “The Storm Management Team met this afternoon to begin to plan steps for recovery. It has been determined that Northern Hamden has received heavier damage than originally suspected. Over 150 trees have been ripped down in Northern Hamden.”
“The Mayor has been in contact with Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro in getting assistance from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA),” the town’s website said.
The storm killed two people. One man in Danbury died when a tree fell on his vehicle. A 41-year-old woman also was killed in New Fairfield during the storms, according to state police. They said a 3-year-old child who was with her did not appear to be hurt.
The storms that moved through Connecticut pelted cars and homes with hail, took down trees, and showed signatures of a possible tornado in some towns. At least one confirmed tornado occurred in the Oxford area.
Power remained out for more than 86,000 Eversource and United Illuminating customers late Wednesday.
SeeClickFix tool centers around a web-based map that displays all user comments. Users may add comments, suggest resolutions, or add video or picture documentation.
“SeeClickFix is only as successful as its city partners,” Berkowitz said. “As such they bear the brunt of the extra work.”
“That said, the SeeClickFix technology does a ton to reduce the added communications burden and confusion for citizens and city officials,” Berkowitz added.