Big Data vs. Big Storm: New Technology Informs Hurricane Sandy Preparedness, Response

Photo: David Shankbone

As Hurricane Sandy slams the East Coast with winds reaching  speeds of 75-85 mph, Direct Relief is ready to respond to urgent requests from partner clinics and health centers for needed medicines and supplies to treat those affected by the storm.

Working with analytical and data visualization tools from technology partner, Palantir, Direct Relief is able to to pinpoint clinic partners located in socially vulnerable areas and in flood risk zones near Hurricane Sandy’s path. Palantir’s tools allow Direct Relief to pull together massive amounts of information sources into a common framework to better understand, visualize, plan, and manage for complex emergencies in near real-time.

As the only nonprofit licensed to distribute prescription medications in all 50 states and a vast emergency preparedness and response program in place with over 1,000 nonprofit clinics and health centers nationwide, Direct Relief is acutely sensitive to the health crises that can arise in mass evacuation situations when people flee their residences without their support medications.

Earlier today, Direct Relief’s inventory was checked for items most requested during emergency situations such as personal care products, chronic disease medications, and tetanus vaccine. Direct Relief corporate supporters have been alerted of likely needs and already Merck, Sanofi, Astra Zeneca, Covidien, BD, Johnson & Johnson, Baxter and Henry Schein have preapproved shipment of inventoried products for those affected by Hurricane Sandy.

Offers of supplies were sent to more than 300 partners in the path of the storm and along evacuation routes. The offer went out via text message so that partners are able to contact our team in the event of a power outage. Direct Relief has also been in touch with Primary Care Development Corporation, an organization working with health centers in New York, to help spread the word about the products and supplies Direct Relief has available to ship.

While the storm will impact an estimated 60 million people, not everybody is equally vulnerable.

Those with means and mobility are better able to evacuate at-risk areas than those who cannot afford to, do not have a form of transportation, or have an illness or condition that does not allow them to move easily. Direct Relief’s clinic partners work with these populations on a regular basis and are most likely to treat them in emergencies.

In addition to emergency response efforts, Direct Relief pre-positions Hurricane Preparedness Packs in advance of the start of hurricane season across nine U.S. states and seven countries most likely to be affected during hurricane season. The Hurricane Preparedness program is the largest such noprofit program in the U.S., pre-positions large quantities of medicines and supplies at health centers, clinics and hospitals in at-risk areas to treat vulnerable people during emergencies. In the U.S., 50 Hurricane Packs are currently in place and stand ready to be deployed in an emergency.

Direct Relief will continue to stay in touch with partners and monitor needs as the storm moves over the East Coast.  To support Direct Relief’s emergency preparedness and response efforts, donate here.

Related on Hurricane Sandy >  Preparing for Emergency With Data Analysis, Who is Vulnerable During Hurricanes? Six Things to Know

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