24 Jan How We Responded to a Year of Massive Disasters
By the standard set in 2017, when a spectacular trio of Category 5 storms made it the most expensive year for disasters in U.S. history, 2018 seems uneventful. But that quick assessment glosses over clear danger signs that climate change is creating ever-more destructive weather events and the fact that disasters led to $155 billion in damages worldwide in 2018, according to estimates made by the Zurich-based reinsurance company Swiss Re.
Thousands of people perished and tens of thousands more were displaced by floods, fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, and other natural disasters around the globe last year. Some of these events, such as a horrific heat wave in Pakistan that killed at least 180 people and massive flooding in Nigeria that displaced more a half million people and destroyed 13,000 homes, received relatively little attention in the U.S.
Several of the biggest and costliest global disasters did occur within the U.S., including Hurricanes Michael and Florence, and the unprecedented wildfires in California. In 2018, billion-dollar weather-related disasters hit from coast to coast, costing the U.S. economy at least $49 billion, according to data compiled by Vox.com.
These events certainly made it a busy year for the Good360 disaster recovery team. In all, we distributed more than $30 million in critically needed goods in response to numerous disasters at home and around the world. Making an impact on this level could only be achieved through our close collaborations with partners large and small, including more than 130 nonprofit organizations and more than 300 corporate donors.
Some of our most notable initiatives in disaster recovery included:
- The launch of our Resilient Response campaign, in collaboration with Global Citizen and All Hands and Hearts – Smart Response. This public awareness project encourages companies and individuals to take a more thoughtful and less wasteful approach to disaster response.
- Key partnerships with the Center for Disaster Philanthropy to strengthen our logistics and warehousing capabilities in Texas, and the Rebuild Texas Fund to assist communities still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey.
- Our efforts to assist with the long-term recovery of Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which was the worst storm to hit the island in its history and killed an estimated 2,975 people.
- Our partnership with Keys Strong and Rooms To Go to bring hope and furniture to families displaced by Hurricane Irma.
With all of these initiatives, we continue to reinforce our broader goal of getting the right goods to the right people at the right time. We do this by taking a proactive and holistic approach to disaster recovery so that actual needs on the ground are closely matched with the appropriate donors and resources.
It also requires that we take the longer perspective in terms of disaster giving. Rather than rushing in to send relief supplies in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, we consider the full lifecycle of every event to ensure that the needs of the impacted community are met at every stage.
We’re especially focused on making sure that the “long tail” of disaster recovery isn’t forgotten. That’s why we continue to work in areas that are still struggling to come back from the destruction of 2017’s unusually active hurricane season, for example.
Our recent partnership with Dow Chemical Company illustrates how we work. The Fortune 500 technology firm boasts a decades-long commitment to promoting sustainability and creating resilient communities where its employees live and work. Because of this, Dow is completely aligned with our long-term approach to disaster philanthropy.
While we initiated a relationship with Dow back in 2017, it wasn’t until late 2018 that we found a prime opportunity to collaborate: Dow agreed to turn over dozens of trailers that served as temporary housing for its staffers in the Houston area after Hurricane Harvey. Good360 worked with our nonprofit partners on the ground to turn them into living quarters for Harvey survivors.
We also convened the Good360 Disaster Recovery Council last year to gather best practices around disaster planning and response. The council is one of the key channels we have for promoting a more purposeful approach to disaster giving in the private sector.
Pushing innovation and education on disaster philanthropy is an increasingly critical part of our mission as evidence mounts that climate change is making weather events more severe and destructive around the globe.
As we continue to be a strong voice for a necessary shift in disaster recovery, we’re looking to grow and activate relationships with more corporate donors and nonprofit organizations in more meaningful ways. We are looking for companies to commit to our 6-point Resilient Response pledge to approach disaster giving with more thought and less waste.
If you’re a company looking to create a more strategic plan around your philanthropic efforts, please reach out to Jim Alvey at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re a nonprofit organization, connect with Kaitlin FitzGerald at email@example.com to help lay the foundation for future support and/or donations.