During Hurricane Harvey, stranded homeowners in Houston neighborhoods were widely using Nextdoor to post pictures of damage and share information about road closures. But there were also cases where the site helped connect people with boats to neighbors who were desperate to escape rising waters.
Company officials say Nextdoor saw five times as much member activity as usual from the affected areas, and recently, membership has spiked more than 650 percent in those areas. The site also partners with local law enforcement and other agencies, who can post to neighborhood sites. In Houston, local agencies such as the Houston Police Department and the Office of Emergency Management shared nearly 700 Harvey-related posts with residents on Nextdoor, the company said.
Tolia said the company has given over space usually reserved for ads on the site to agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration so they can post alerts. There is also a Red Cross button so members can easily donate. Nextdoor also plans to announce new features soon that will help neighbors stay informed during natural disasters and other crises.
“I think what we’ve learned is that people will do really incredible things to help each other in times of crisis, and we’ve gotta invest more around tools to help them do these things,” he said.
Tolia’s Texas ties run deep. His parents, who emigrated from India, have lived in Odessa for 43 years but plan a move to Dallas as soon as his father, a physician, is set to retire. He also has a brother who lives in Dallas’ Lakewood neighborhood and family members in the Houston area.
So the way Texans responded to neighbors in need on Nextdoor didn’t seem to surprise him.
“Texas has always been for Nextdoor one of our strongest markets, and we think the reason is not because of anything special we’ve done. It’s because the people of Texas, they are neighborly. It’s part of what makes the state great,” he said.