Joplin, MO — city’s website is exemplary

I have been doing some research lately on the Moore, OK tornadoes and am having a surprisingly hard time finding useful websites for basic information about that disaster. I wish it were easier to do basic information gathering for case studies and to document not only response but especially recovery in a useful and consistent way so that cases could be compared and contrasted. Sadly, that is not the situation presently in the U.S.  And from a few conversations with Canadian colleagues, they too  are having a hard time getting information about recovery. Both countries would benefit from a knowledge base about local recovery. But that is the topic for another conversation.

The main purpose of today’s posting is to give credit to the city of Joplin for its extraordinary website —  Local leaders are to be commented for a website that is a model of practical and essential information about a city recovering from a disaster.  For example, see the page titled Fact Sheet.

If more cities that were recovering from a disaster shared the kind of data and information that Joplin has, researchers, practitioners, and others could readily do the studies we so desperately need to document the recovery process.  I think such a website should be a requirement as a condition of receiving a federal declaration!

PLEASE READ BEFORE COMMENTING:  Update on June 12: Please note that this posting is not meant to criticize Moore for not having a fact-filled website in a matter of weeks after the disaster.My suggestion is one that would be addressed by the public officials assisting Moore and the other impacted areas; it is not something additional that citizens have to do.

The state, which has sponsored the site StrongOK, has done a pretty good job with its website in the short term. Since the State has asked for and received a Presidential Disaster Declaration, it has signed a contract that requires it to make public its expenditures of federal money and also to take mitigative actions regarding future tornadoes and other hazards. Consequently, all of the political officials should be aware of these requirements and comply with them.

I am of the opinion that all cities that have had a major disaster might consider creating a substantive website when they get into the recovery phase, because I think it would help those wanting to assist, and those documenting the event. And it might cut down on phone calls and other requests for information.

21 thoughts on “Joplin, MO — city’s website is exemplary

  1. Unbelievable. And Sad.

    Constructive criticism, crucial conversations and the ability to reflect, analyze, learn, and adjust are ALWAYS important, especially post-disaster and especially in places where there is certainly a heightened threat. But there is a time and a place and an appropriate intention and tone… and you missed this by a mile. Perhaps by 2.5 miles.

    As a researcher and blogger – you should be fluent in the interwebs and be able to use Google to find information. I also hope you realize you have a responsibility to your readers to meet the expectations for what you proclaim this blog to be. Unfortunately though, bloggers sometimes forget their place and overstep their bounds in what they feel is their area of specialization – and you seem to have forgotten to be respectful in your research and your ill-timed, misplaced condemnation under the guise of recognizing Joplin.

    Our community – the entire state and beyond – is heartbroken, but okay, but even if the government were to actually consider such a ridiculous suggestion to deny federal aid to a community for not having the best disaster response plan for every local city – thankfully there is a little thing we have called Oklahoma Standard that was so named as a result of the way our community came together after the Bombing in 1995. And perhaps one reason you aren’t finding such detailed information is because of another little thing called grassroots efforts. There is too much help, too fast and people are busy being involved in the recovery effort rather trying to catalogue and criticize.

    Surely in your research and your status as a recovery diva, you have come across the term, but if you haven’t – I’ll help you out and then expect that you know what to do after that (hint: Keep in mind that Moore is a small suburb of OKC so I hope you checked with OKC resources as well… because in addition to speaking to the history of the Oklahoma Standard, the site below has some pretty good disaster preparedness and response information as well.

    And just to be nice, I’ll give you a few more links. This one is to the Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security, which like Joplin, was created in response to seeing the need for more resources.

    From the site:
    “Recognizing the need for coordinated preparedness and security efforts after 9/11, the Oklahoma Legislature passed Senate Joint Resolution 42 in February 2002 and the Office of Interim Oklahoma Homeland Security Director was created. A small staff was assembled in July of that year and the Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security (OKOHS) began focusing on homeland security efforts within the state.

    In January 2004, Governor Brad Henry appointed Kerry Pettingill as the Oklahoma Homeland Security Director. That same month, the Governor sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security designating OKOHS as the State Administrative Agency (SAA). By that time, DHS was initiating a number of new preparedness programs for implementation at the state and local levels. The Oklahoma Legislature passed House Bill 2280—the Oklahoma Homeland Security Act—in May 2004, which the Governor signed, and OKOHS was established in Oklahoma statute.”

    That took me maybe 2 minutes to find I think?

    In doing some further “research” of my own – I’m sad to see that your blog really is more a bunch of links and link backs to your own sites and your opinion, which is often critical.

    And then I see this post of yours asking for support on the basis of your “research expertise” and the excellent comment by an emergency management professional expressing her disappointment… and I see a repetitive failure on your part to respond to people who are likewise critical of you when YOU are being critical of others. But when you dish it out lady, you should be prepared to not only take it – but to provide an appropriately researched and well-thought out response…because your credibility is the one that is most at stake.

    You have a great platform and an opportunity to be a positive agent of change and I would encourage you to think hard about your real intentions. Are you truly trying to be helpful or is this your chance to be the “mean girl” as a self-proclaimed “diva” and be hyper-critical instead?

    I’m asking you to please be mindful that judgment and condemnation and harsh words in times of tragedy will never be appropriate, especially when directed at people who have done nothing wrong, have been deeply hurt and have shown their amazing capacity to love and care, and *gasp* not judge. Can you imagine if we chose not to help those people who live in rural areas in older homes who have little means and didn’t have insurance? Oh that’s right, the Red Cross unfortunately and some other organizations already deny people that help and is why FEMA and other disaster assistance is made available.

    I would know, I was a 23 year old young mother with a toddler who had just left my husband and hadn’t even lived in my apartment a month yet when it was destroyed in the May 3rd tornado in 1999. We hadn’t even separated checking accounts yet and I was young and naive and renters insurance wasn’t the first thing on my mind in trying to figure out how I was going to make ends meet.

    I am truly, beyond disappointed.

    Carrie Corbin

    P.S. Here’s a list of resources I personally compiled immediately following the storm (and have updated as I’ve had the ability):


  2. Well ms. Rubin… If its soooooo important right now why don’t you just bring yourself down here to Moore, ok and set a web page up for us(not like we don’t have a lot already) but if it suits your fancy to set one up to your likings, make sure your here when you do it while the rest of us are busy picking up, cleaning up, feeding, clothing, etc…for those affected.

  3. Just give it time on your research. Not only did Moore, Oklahoma get hit but Union City, El Reno, Oklahoma City, Bethel Acres, Shawnee, Carney, Kingfisher, Chandler, and the list goes on, got hit by tornados that exceeded wind speeds up to 200 miles and more. Making those tornados F4’s and F5’s and leaving devastation trails for miles on end. Not to even mention the massive amounts of rain, that led to flash flooding throughout the metro and surrounding areas. Which had hindered the work that needs to be done. We as Oklahomans at this moment in time are just out there helping one another and spreading the word on what kind of help is needed. Whether it’s volunteers, supplies, food, clothes, a hot shower, shelter, etc, and doing so the quickest way we know how, which is turning to Facebook, Twitter, text, phone calls, or word of mouth. And if we aren’t online spreading the word of help that is needed, we are out there working side by side, which is the best way we Oklahomans know how. That’s how we recover. That is how we have always recovered. They don’t call Oklahoma tornado alley for no reason. =] But I have no doubt in time, our state will create a website for the future like Joplin had created after the destruction the tornado had left behind on their town. It’s a learning process for us all. Just like I’m sure tornado shelters will now become mandatory in schools after the tragic lost of losing 7 children in the Moore tornado. If I can give any advice, come to Oklahoma and do your research hands on. That way, you can see first hand the Oklahoma spirit within its people =]

  4. I would just like to put my two cents in here. As some one who has lost everything due to the EF-5 on May 20th, who then got hit on May 31st when another tornado went through almost the same area I have a problem here. My mom, dad, brother, my 2 toddlers, my best friend and her two toddlers, my cousin and her husband, as well as my self all lost everything. The City of Moore has been doing everything in it’s power to help those of us who have lost so much. When we were picking through what was left of our home volunteers came through offering food, water, gatoraid, gloves, garbage bags, totes, and other things such as this. businesses went out of their way to come through and offer assistance as well. Home depot and Lowe’s came by several times offering us plastic tubs, garbage bags, and other essentials for digging through the debris. The donations that have piled in have been so helpful! If you wanted or needed anything you could stop pretty much any one in our city and ask. They would point you in the right direction. FEMA, Red Cross, and so many other organizations all set up in the parking lots of all of major store’s in our area. They offered help, information sheets with shelters for people as well as pets, where to get clothes, food, or anything else you might need. A lot of people from the storms do not have internet or a way to access it so a website is impractical for those of us locally.

    Yes, it would be great for people who are out of our area or even our state, but the city, and the state are focusing on us locally at the moment. We appreciate everything every one is doing for us. Locally and out of towners, out of staters.

    Little things can mean so very much. From a hug, to a simple kind word means so very much.

    We are cleaning up and re-building. We are Moore Strong!

    If you want information for Moore, Oklahoma there are a ton of websites. There are a lot of facebook pages set up with lost and found everything from pets to pictures. It all just depends on what you are looking for.
    There are groups on facebook that are spending every hour they possibly can sitting on their computers looking through animal pictures of lost and found pets trying to match up the animals and get them re-united with their families. Several churches have gone through and picked up important things. One church contacted my dad and informed him they had his marriage license to my mom. When they got their they found my dad’s father’s day present from last year, my brothers brand new watch (it was a little scratched and dented up, but still worked), my great grandmother’s charm bracelet.

    I am attaching some sites that were really helpful as we are going through everything down here. (The City of Moore’s direct page) (The City of Moore’s facebook page where they list information pertinent to clean up, rebuilding, and any information we could possibly need) (This page is strictly for cats that were lost or found after the tornado) (Here is a facebook page that offers information from where FEMA is set up, how to deal with them, even a resource directory. They update their page often and have very valuable information)

    These are all lost and found pet pages:

    I hope that these links are helpful in your research. If you ever have questions please feel free to email me. We lived through the tornado. We lived through our lives being ripped apart, and we came out stronger than when we went in.

    I am attaching the link to my picture page with pictures of what is left of my home:

  5. As a Joplin, MO resident I will say that we did not immediately have this sight. It takes time and a lot of work from all people involved. I have been following Moore, OK tornado recovery on their facebook page and they update many times a day. I would say they are doing the best that they can do given all that they have just endured.

  6. Emotions are high on every front. The people of Moore are still in shock. But, trying to help by pointing out where information gathering could be better is a good thing… don’t take it personal folks….

  7. I am a citizen of Moore and my home was demolished on May 20th. I am extremely proud to live here and experience first hand the care and concern of so many both from my state and all over the world. I understand you are from Canada? Or outside of Oklahoma at the very least. Please step back and check yourself and what you are asking my city to do. Our town JUST got wiped away as if a bomb hit it for a 15 mile stretch. We had people killed. Children lost their lives. Our town is barely beginning the process of recovery and you’ll have to excuse us if our priorities are different from yours. We are much more concerned with making sure our people are fed, housed, and have their basic needs met. We are much more concerned with using all the manpower and computer power we have for the purposes of recovery. We are not a town that steps away from our responsibility to our citizens to help them actually recover in order to document this recovery for outsiders to spend their time studying. I have no doubt that one day soon you will have access to any information you need, as we are far from the uneducated, unable people Oklahomans are often made out to be. In the meantime perhaps it will help your research to know that our recovery process is just that: a process. First we take care of our own and then when all of those we care about are in a better place, we will help those like you study this disaster response. You can also bet we will do so in order to help the next town hit by a devastating disaster, as we’ve gone through it many times by now. Until then, keep your criticisms in check. Having them is one thing; sharing them and expressing negativity toward a place that has been so devastated already is a bit heartless. We are Moore. We are recovering and I promise you will learn more from my town and the generous hearts our people have to help our neighbors than any other place.

  8. How can you even compare the two? I’m sure Joplin has developed a very helpful website with their community in mind. But the fact is, Joplin has had just over 2 years to get their website in order…Moore has had just over 2 weeks. I don’t think the priority should EVER be to update a website for case studies over helping those in need, and it certainly shouldn’t be a requirement in order to receive a federal declaration! Maybe you should try re-writing your article in 2 years. Perhaps at that time you’ll be able to find a little more information on the tornado efforts. Meanwhile, the people affected by the tornado in Moore will be trying to get their lives back together again (and possibly updating their website for you).

  9. I agree that the city of Moore is not likely to have a fact-filled website in a matter of weeks after the disaster. The state, which has sponsored the site StrongOK, has done a pretty good job with its website in the short term.

    I do want to suggest that all cities that have had a major disaster might consider creating a substantive website — I think it would help those wanting to assist, and those documenting the event, and it might cut down on phone calls and other requests for information.

  10. Maybe they are more worried about removing rubble and cleanup only 2 weeks after the tornado than they are about a web page. Just sayin…..

  11. Moore OK is very early into the recovery phase and is still picking up debris. To suggest that Moore, OK or the state of OK is remiss in not having a complete site up and running is not appropriate at this time. And to suggest that federal aid should be withheld until such a site is established borderlines cruel. In situations like this, and the 2 weeks that followed with storms in the same area, aid is needed immediately.
    I’m sure that in time you will find all that you need for your research, but in the meanwhile please use a little restraint on your criticism and fault finding. I’m also sure your research can wait until we’ve picked up the debris and, in the case of the later storms, recovered all the bodies.
    Thanks in advance for your consideration.

  12. You may want to give Moore, OK more time to add to their website. There is a big difference in Joplin being 2 years out of their tornado and Moore being just a few weeks.

  13. Kudos to Joplin MO for organizing and sharing this information. Out of curiosity, was this level of detail from Joplin available two weeks after the devatating tornado or pulled together afterward? Comparing Moore, OK to Joplin when the events are a year apart seems a bit like apples and oranges.

  14. I am from Joplin and the vice-chair of the Joplin Area Long Term Recovery Committee. Lynn and the team at the city have done an excellent job on the website. Our community as a whole is hoping to share our experiences and what we have learned with other communities. Thank you for the work that you do to spread information!

  15. I had the honor of working with Lynn Onstot, the Joplin Public Information Officer who was incredible. Lynn had a combination of vision and talent, coupled with overall community committement to being transparent regarding the Joplin Response and Recovery. Couple that with the Joplin Citizens Advisory Recovery Team (CARTs) role in leading a participatory recovery environment, led by community leader Jane Cage and you have a willing formula.

  16. Indeed a very impressive web site and I concur that other communities should turn to Joplin’s site and utilize it as a reference in updating and affording more public information helpful to the community.

    Bravo! Well done and to the People in Joplin and surrounding communities, God bless you for your resilience and community spirit! You are certainly an example for all of us to follow especially when emergency management is required as well as having to depend on one another in our Christian and American spirit….Our prayers and thoughts are with you and supplies as well.

    Christopher Tingus
    PO Box 1612
    Harwich (Cape Cod), MA 02645

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