A commitment to helping communities in moments of crisis
This First Responders Day, we’re extending our deepest gratitude to the remarkable individuals who are helping their communities and responding to crisis in every imaginable way.
As the frequency and intensity of natural disasters has rapidly increased, an unprecedented number of people have responded to help their communities in times of need, broadening what it means to be a first responder. While their acts of service may vary, the one thing that remains true is what they stand for: bravery, resilience, and hope.
Meet some of the first responders on the front lines in their communities
“I never thought I’d be out there in a million years fighting fires and feeling like a hero.”
Delivering career support to formerly incarcerated firefighters to combat wildfires
Co-founder of The Forestry and Fire Recruitment Program
Incarcerated firefighters account for a staggering 30% of those battling wildfires on the west coast. Until The Forestry and Fire Recruitment Program (FFRP), institutional barriers made it almost impossible for these individuals to attain gainful employment in the firefighting sector once home.
Royal Ramey first fought wildfires when incarcerated. Not only did it teach him valuable skills, it filled him with true purpose. Upon his release in 2014 Royal pursued a career in firefighting, but quickly encountered systemic inequities preventing him from obtaining employment. On Royal’s job hunt, he was rejected from every fire department due to his conviction record.
To create opportunities that weren't afforded to him, Royal cofounded The Forestry and Fire Recruitment Program (FFRP), a nonprofit that provides career support to formerly incarcerated firefighters to transition to the industry professionally. From training to certifications to mentorship, Royal says, “we strive to ensure formerly incarcerated firefighters have the support needed to find long-term career success.”
With the understaffing of firefighters and California fire seasons increasing in frequency and intensity, the State of California has turned to FFRP to find a long-term solution to train and staff more fire departments — surpassing Royal’s expectations for what he dreamed it could be.
“We sent anything that people needed. We were probably helping over 5,000 people in the city every day.”
Creating a volunteer network to help communities weather extreme storms
FOUNDER OF TEXAS RELIEF WARRIORS
Cara Adams founded Texas Relief Warriors in the wake of Hurricane Harvey in 2017. When Hurricane Laura hit in 2020, Cara quickly responded by identifying the needs of individuals in the community. She and volunteers then coordinated the orders of vital supplies, eventually sending over 30 semi-tractor-trailer trucks for delivery directly to people in need.
Texas Relief Warriors’ experience in the aftermath of hurricanes for the Texas and Gulf coasts prepared them for the unprecedented winter storm Uri in 2021. To allow people to request help in response to freezing temperatures and the lack of water, a Google Form on their website connected to a Google Sheet and automatically uploaded to Maps. Drivers were able to pinpoint where people needed food and plan efficient routes to reach them. Though the storm has passed, Cara continues to run programs and drives to support the affected families.
“We tend to focus on fixing the physical wounds, but the wounds go much deeper than that.”
Supporting underserved youth with violence intervention and prevention
VIOLENCE INTERVENTION SPECIALIST FOR KINGS AGAINST VIOLENCE INITIATIVE
Kings Against Violence Initiative (KAVI) is a community-based violence intervention and prevention program that supports youth and focuses on shifting norms while creating a safer and stronger community. Founder Dr. Robert Gore, an ER doctor at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, is no stranger to seeing trauma. Still, his upbringing in Central Brooklyn and years of practice in the ER had not prepared him to encounter the number of youth brought in, suffering at the hands of systemic inequities that lead to street violence and retaliation. To help more patients move forward from trauma, he sought assistance from members of the community, like Taisha Smith.
Growing up in a community riddled with violence, Taisha decided her mission was to encourage healing, and prevent retaliation. As one of KAVI’s most dedicated hospital intervention specialist, she actively partners with injured patients and their families to end the cycle of violence and trauma.
When an ER patient comes in with an intentional injury, Taisha tends to the patient like family, staying bedside to ensure they get proper care, eliminate thoughts of retaliation, and focus their attention on healing physically and mentally. Securing employment, finding housing, and getting the patient well and in a healthier environment are all part of KAVI's program for violence intervention and preventing trauma.
“We began our journey the way all great journeys begin; one step at a time.”
Building a grassroots volunteer community that’s ready to respond to crisis
CO-FOUNDER OF THE BUCKET BRIGADE
Abe Powell's roots as a volunteer began during Santa Barbara Country's Tea Fire in 2008. Shortly after, he stepped up to coordinate a group that helped sandbag and protect his neighborhood from flooding during a severe rainstorm. In just two weeks, with a Gmail account and Google Forms, he gathered 1,000 volunteers. This massive community effort was the beginning of something even greater.
In 2018, the Bucket Brigade was fully formed in response to the tragic flow of debris which devastated Montecito, California. Since then, the Bucket Brigade has been helping out during COVID-19 and beyond. Their 2020 Mask program brought together diverse members of the community to produce thousands of masks and face shields for those in need. They continue to tackle the food insecurity crisis through their Growing Community Project which maintains a community garden and delivers home garden kits so people can grow their own fresh produce. Today, with volunteers spread across a wide array of programs, Abe's adaptive response system stands 4,500 strong.
Providing access to critical resources when people need it most
Google’s Crisis Response team shares the mission to help communities in the face of disasters. For over a decade, we’ve partnered with those on the front lines to develop technology and programs that help keep people safe, informed, and out of harm’s way — such as SOS alerts in Google Search and Google.org disaster relief grants. And like the organizations profiled above, Google's Crisis Response efforts are powered by passionate teams and individuals, working together to help those in need.