Thursday, October 06, 2005

Quick Stats and Factoids 

ACT Center
(Astrodome Community Technology Center)

Quick Stats

· 210 Computers in 3 locations—Astrodome, Reliant Center (including a children’s center), and in the Reliant Arena.
· Served approximately 16,000 clients over 19 days (Adults, Children and Youth)
· 307 volunteers provided over 10,800 hours of volunteer service
· 22,557 family records entered
· 2000+ family members reunited (approx.)
· Volunteers also assisted clients with housing and job searches, relocation issues, FEMA applications and setting up email and using other online tools
· TFA-Wireless facilitated roving volunteers to work with clients on the floor of the astrodome in addition to in the ACT Center.


Technology For All’s (TFA) efforts, and a generous donation by SBC, to provide broadband Internet access, created the ACT Center in less than 36 hours in a facility built nearly 40 years ago. This access not only enabled the ACT Center to provide the services it did, but also enabled the Red Cross to implement its IT infrastructure in the Astrodome as well as provide Internet connections and information for other organizations such as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and Continental Airlines, which provided one-way tickets to reconnect families.

Reliant Energy provided the equipment, installation and ongoing support for over 50 computers located at the Reliant Center. Reliant Energy also provided the equipment for networking the computers to the internet as well as numerous printers. In addition to the computer equipment and support Reliant Energy volunteers staffed both the Astrodome and Reliant Center CTCs.

Trend Micro provided anti-virus solutions for the 60+ PCs located in Reliant Arena and Reliant Center.

SimHouston and CompuCycle worked together to prepare the initial 40 machines for installation at the Astrodome. Compucycle provided the computers and equipment. SimHouston provided software.

Plains All American Pipeline provided TFA 20 computers prepared with a complete software load and ready for installation at the Reliant Arena. These computers have been redeployed by TFA into a community technology center (CTC) at the South Union Community Development Corporation in service to the over 1000 evacuee families that have moved into the neighborhood.

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) donated 150 Personal Internet Communicator (PICs) devices, which not only helped families find loved ones, but which also gave kids a chance to surf the Internet, and play on children’s Web sites. These PICs are being redeployed at CTCs serving the evacuee community in the greater Houston area.

HP provided the use of 15 laptops for the paging center and ongoing registration efforts.

A total of 210 computers and PICS were installed by TFA and its corporate and community partners at the Astrodome, Reliant Center and Reliant Arena.

Staff from TFA worked together with Yahoo engineers to assist in the creation of a customized portal / search engine that crawled the disparate Web sites and databases, which helped to connect family members throughout the country and even the World. Yahoo reports that its site received more traffic over the Labor Day weekend after Katrina than at any other time in Yahoo history.

The ACT Center enabled evacuees to set up email accounts, which was required to check the status of FEMA applications online. Many evacuees were unable to get in touch with a FEMA representative by phone, as the phone lines were overwhelmed. (Setting up an ISAAC account with FEMA, required to check the status of an application, required an email address that a PIN was emailed to.)

TFA quickly collaborated with Yahoo personnel to quickly code and network the paging system capability, which for many, was the only way for separated family members to find each other in the multiple, enormous facilities where thousands of persons were residing in shelters.

The ACT Center fax machine purchased by TFA was used not only utilized by TFA and the ACT Center volunteers to obtain birth certificates and replacement driver’s licenses, but also by many agencies and organizations located in the Astrodome, including FEMA and the Red Cross. TFA’s fax machine was the only FAX machine available to all agencies in the building and to evacuees.

SBC donated CallNotes numbers which not only provided a way for dislocated loved ones to find each other online and then contact each other, but CallNotes also allowed for evacuees to register online for FEMA. The FEMA online registration system required one contact number to be entered. Without the SBC donation of CallNotes, we would have been forced to enter a non working number like 000-000-0000.

When evacuees located missing loved ones in the ATC Center, they were invited to ring a cowbell. Each time it rang, it brought hope to all evacuees in the room, and the room would erupt into applause, hugs, and joyful tears.

ACT Center volunteers continue to assist Katrina evacuees and additional volunteer support is needed by TFA at twenty (20) local CTCs. The impact of working with disconnected and impoverished evacuees, combined with the empowerment that the technology provides, is creating not only a renewed sense of volunteerism, but a realization by evacuees of the true power that technology tools can bring to their lives. VOLUNTEER TODAY! Contact Pam.Gardner@techforall.org or call her at 713.454.6415

Check out the summary ACT Center Report (pdf) at http://www.techforall.org/TFA_051003_ACTCtrRpt-v4.pdf

2220 Broadway
Houston, Texas 77012

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