Disaster Response Too Much of a Good Thing
Newscaster’s Voice: “Nearly a half million people in Miami’s Dade County are still without power. Total restoration is not expected until Friday.”
Ambience: storm, hurricane
Zobel: When people hear that there’s been a disaster, like flooding, and they know someone who has family who’s been impacted by this, very often people have sent items to the location for disaster relief in order to help people out.
Sounds like a good idea, right? Well, perhaps not. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
Zobel: The problem that has been observed over and over again is that if enough people do this, you have a lot of supplies showing up that aren’t expected, and someone has to store those supplies, and someone has to catalog those supplies.
Chris Zobel is a Professor of Business Information Technology at Virginia Tech. He helps municipalities and relief organizations to plan for disasters.
Zobel: And so, the people who are supposed to be figuring out where to send the blankets and where to send the water now, suddenly have to pay attention to all these other things that aren’t supposed to be there and that aren’t expected. And so, it puts a kink in the whole process, and it slows things down, and it fills up needed space.
Zobel: Very simply, the solution is send money; don’t send stuff. A famous example in, I believe it was Hurricane Katrina, there was a story on the rescue dogs were getting their paws cut up by walking around on broken glass and on rubble and so forth. And a lot of people sent in dog booties to protect the dogs’ paws. But these cases of dog booties ended up clogging up the works, and in the end, was not a helpful thing to do. Really the best solution is to send money to whatever charitable organization you would like to send to, so that they can then decide what the best use for that resource is.
Newscaster’s Voice: “Katrina’s now a major hurricane and”
I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.