Digital innovation veteran assists Hurricane Harvey victims

| by Elliot Maras
Digital innovation veteran assists Hurricane Harvey victims

The Hurricane Harvey relief effort has been non-stop. Brandon Elliott took this photo near his home in Katy, Texas.

Brandon Elliott has spent plenty of time around virtual and augmented reality as a digital innovation professional, but when Hurricane Harvey flooded his Katy, Texas home recently, the realities of Mother Nature became the only realities on his radar. The flooding in his house reached 11 inches high. 

Brandon Elliott posted videos on Facebook to give instructions on restoring a flooded house.

But true to form, Elliott rose to the challenge. He dried and cleaned his home, then joined the hundreds of volunteers working full time and a half to assist his beleaguered fellow citizens. The relief effort has been non-stop for the past two weeks as many in the greater Houston area struggle in flood ravaged homes.  

Harvey's full toll won't be realized for weeks. According to NBC News, 70 people lost their lives and at least 18 remain missing. 

Elliott, a digital innovation veteran of HMS Host, Build-A-Bear Workshop, Radio Shack, Infusion, a software company, and other companies, has been spending around 14 hours a day in relief activity. He and his fellow volunteers have canvassed the streets looking for people in need of assistance.

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Elliott has worked with his church organization to assist people in need. Groups of eight to 16 people have visited flooded homes to advise residents what they need to do and help them do it.

Elliott's 3,000-square-foot home was flooded with 11 inches of water at the highest point. 

Elliott's video demonstrates how to remove drywall.

After the first day of the flooding, 15 volunteers were on hand to help him remove drywall and dry the house with fans and humidifiers. Then it was his turn to join the volunteers and seek others in need of help.

Professional digital experience in action

Elliott's professional experience came in handy for creating Google docs to coordinate and update his team's relief efforts. He also made Facebook videos to instruct people on removing drywall and what tools and supplies they would need. A followup video explains what to do once the drywall has been removed.

The videos have gotten numerous views and shares.

"I've got lots of people calling and asking questions," Elliott told Kiosk Marketplace.

Many people need help learning how to clean a flooded home and how to contact FEMA.

"We were able to get everybody in our church area pretty much mucked out and taken care of in the first seven days," Elliott said. "We're repeating that across the entire area in at least this part of Katy, Texas. There are still people right now that can't get in their homes."

"The main goal is to make sure the people are safe," he said. The next step is to remove the drywall and base boards from the house, along with cutting out damaged insulation. 

"The idea is to dry the house out as fast as you can," he said. Fans and humidifiers are used. Bleach, mold and mildew cleaner are needed to clean floors and walls.

Victims need information

"We're entering the phase of 'how do you work with FEMA and contractors?'" he said."Your homeowner insurance does not cover floods. You have to have flood insurance. But there are a lot of people (affected) who were not in a flood zone, so they do not have flood insurance."

The volunteers do not charge people for their services. Commercial cleaning services charge between $8,000 and $15,000 to remove drywall.

One of Elliott's videos shows tools needed for drying the house.

In the next week, Elliott's church group will try to muck out another 128 homes.

He has also taken supplies to a local Catholic church involved in relief efforts.

Elliott was better prepared for Harvey than many people after experiencing a flood last year. In March of 2016, the city experienced what was called a "500-year" flood. He built a berm around his house after that flood that proved insufficient in the face of Hurricane Harvey.

When Hurricane Harvey struck, Elliott immediately recognized the need to respond quickly since he knew there were many people who had no idea what to do.

Elliott, who currently works as a digital solutions consultant, will help develop plans to assist future flood prevention efforts, including storage warehouses and communications plans.

Topics: Repair / Service

Companies: RadioShack, HMSHost

Elliot Maras

Elliot Maras is the editor of and

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