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California fires: how we’re providing aid and ways you can help

November 21st, 2018

Over the last week, three wildfires have devastated communities in California, and there’s been a tremendous effort—on the part of firefighters, first responders, local officials, and NGOs—to contain the flames and help thousands of displaced families. Since the start of the fires, we’ve deployed resources to help those affected in our own backyard. Here’s a bit more on that, and how you can help.

Improving access to information

When the fires broke out, Google’s Crisis Response team activated SOS Alerts , allowing people impacted by the disaster to access local emergency information, news and maps of the affected areas. With networks down, it soon it became evident that getting online was a top concern.

In collaboration with the Information Technology Disaster Resource Center (ITDRC), Google volunteers have been on the ground helping communities get back online, allowing many to reconnect with families and friends, file insurance claims, and—when possible—get back to school or work. They set up WiFi and connected Chromebooks at shelters, distribution centers, churches, and clinics, serving over 1,000 evacuees. In just a couple of days, these connections allowed over a dozen shelter guests to be matched to missing persons list entries.

ITDRC and our volunteers are also working in Southern California to capture aerial and street-level imagery of the impacted areas. These images will be used to augment existing digital maps allowing emergency managers to evaluate the impact of the fires.

Beyond information, there are many critical needs to be met during a crisis of this proportion, including food and shelter. Google.org and Googlers have donated over $1.5 million to support those impacted by the fires. This includes a $500,000 direct grant from Google.org to efforts like the NorCal Disaster Relief Fund and the Southern California Disaster Relief Fund.

By leveraging existing partnerships with merchants and carriers, the Google Shopping team has also made a $100,000 in-kind donation of food and basic essentials to local food banks through Feeding America.

Everyone can help

SOS Alerts is a gateway for people to make donations, 100% of which goes to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, and will be directed to highly impactful organizations spearheading recovery efforts. To date, over 3,500 people have given money to support the victims of the fires through Google, making donations from five dollars, to as much as $500.

Today, we want to invite others to donate as well, to the victims of the Camp Fire or to the victims of the Southern California fires. Anyone can also make donations directly to organizations like the American Red Cross, which is working shelter to those displaced, the Wildfire Relief Fund, which is supporting long-term recovery and preparedness, or the Latino Community Foundation as they support groups providing aid to families and farmworker communities in the affected areas.

California is our home. It’s where we were founded and where over a third of all Google employees live. There is much more to be done and we’ll stay engaged in support of recovery efforts throughout the state during the days and months ahead.