Hurricane Harvey Recovery and Rebuilding

Caitlin McDanels
Marketing Technology & Communications Manager, ACCP

ACCP hosted a call discussing the recovery and rebuilding efforts surrounding the communities devastated by Hurricane Harvey. Read on to learn about the issues facing victims and what can be done to help.

1. While Texas and Louisiana are receiving massive monetary donations now, history shows those will dry up soon as they move out of the public’s eye.

Bob G. Ottenhoff, President & CEO, The Center for Disaster Philanthropy, shared that very little money goes towards long-term recovery/rebuilding compared to the massive donations received during the initial recovery stage of a disaster.

Michael Reidy, Voluntary Agency Liaison, FEMA, who is on the ground in Texas, shared the rule of 10: If a disaster response takes 10 days, the immediate recovery takes 100 days, and then the long-term recovery takes 1000. As of September 7th, Texas is still in the disaster response stage. The time it will take to get residents to their “new normal” is not yet known but is projected to be around 9-10 years.

You can support community funds and look for opportunities to contribute down the line. Joe Ruiz, Director, UPS Humanitarian Relief Program, The UPS Foundation suggested companies pledge money for the separate stages of a disaster so victims continue to receive the support they need for not only the immediate needs but for long-term recovery as well.

2. It’s hard to accept donated products that aren’t properly strategized.

Joe, Michael, and Bob shared that more thought should go into sending product to devastated communities. Rescues are still occurring, and not all roads are accessible yet.

Bob said, “There isn’t capacity to handle donations of products and services that aren’t part of some kind of organized system.”

Those organized systems are already in place by a network of corporations, nonprofit partners, government organizations, and giving vendors. When products are donated outside of those systems, nonprofits may not have room for them or unnecessary labor is created. If you ship a bag full of clothes, someone is going to have to sort those clothes and palletize them before moving them to where they may be needed.

So, while it’s great that your fellow employees want to get a collection drive going, sending old clothes and shoes may not be helpful at this point. Consider giving money or work with a local group to find out what items are truly needed and can be received at this point. Never collect items if you aren’t working off a needs list provided by an organization, who has agreed to cover transportation, and is actively assisting people in the aftermath of a disaster.

3. Not all needs are apparent.

Joe highlighted issues facing victims that they may not yet have realized.

Victims of Harvey may have lost their houses, their cars and their jobs as a result of businesses closing. Most likely they lost all of their important tax documents too. They may not be aware that they need these documents to file claims or that they may be eligible for relief from their mortgage company or their auto lender as a result of the disaster. Operation Hope’s Hope Coalition America Program is the financial recovery partner for the Red Cross and FEMA, and the only financial emergency preparedness and recovery service in the U.S. They help victims get their financial lives back on track.

Another issue facing victims can come once it’s time to navigate insurance claims. SBP helps victims make informed decisions and avoid being taken advantage of by fraudulent contractors.

These organizations help the long-term rebuilding efforts.

4. Integrate what you’re good at into your response.

If your company makes medical supplies, then you probably are donating product that is being welcome with open arms. Think about what your company does and how you can leverage it to respond to Harvey.

Bob reminded callers that one organization can’t do everything on its own, and partners are necessary to maximize your impact. Learn who in the area does what to find out gaps in the process and where there’s room for you. A good starting point may be reaching out to a community foundation in one of the devastated areas to get an insider’s look at the situation to inform your response.

5. Plan your disaster relief strategy before a disaster happens.

Joe shared that UPS created a framework for disaster relief that helps it be an effective responder and rebuilder, and it boils down to being prepared. You should select partners and consider investments in preparedness, response, and long-term recovery. If you can, give funds ahead of time and have an agreement that outlines when they will be activated. Know who your partners are ahead of time.

Bob said, “We could save many dollars later in long-term recovery if we think about planning better. There are more intense disasters occurring, and the old ways of responding to them aren’t sustainable anymore.”

Now is the time to make your disaster relief plan. If you’re an ACCP member, head to the Resource Library for helpful documents. Talk to your CSR peers about what they’re doing and look to leaders in the field for insights.

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