Hurricane Sandy: Offering Help Amid Evacuations, Outages


While Sandy travels further inland, leaving behind thousands of people in shelters and widespread power outages, Direct Relief is actively monitoring needs and offering assistance to health center partners and evacuation centers in 16 states and D.C. affected by the storm.

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.

Using analytical and data visualization tools from technology partner, Palantir, Direct Relief is pinpointing clinic partners located in socially vulnerable areas and in flood risk zones near Hurricane Sandy’s path to better understand, visualize, plan, and manage for complex emergencies in near real-time. With many businesses closed today, Direct Relief is working to assess which health center partners are open and treating patients and add that information to the collaborative analysis.

A few partners have updated Direct Relief on their status. Director of External Affairs at the William F. Ryan Community Health Center in Manhattan, Lorraine Leong, said the clinic was open for a half day, but it has become unsafe for employees to get to work. She reported that the entire train and bus system in New York is shut down as well as all the bridges and tunnels into New York from New Jersey.

New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has advised people to stay inside because of the high winds, which could cause debris such as trees to become projectiles. Leong said they hope to open “as soon as physically possible.”

Director of Emergency Preparedness and Response at the Florida Association of Community Health Centers, Tom Knox, said he is working to put Direct Relief in touch with the New Jersey Primary Care Association. He reported that all his wife’s relatives are at ground zero in N.J. and currently have no electricity and that many of the cell phone towers are down or overloaded. Knox said they are safe, but one has trees on her roof.

Regarding outreach with offers of assistance, Direct Relief has connected with the Director of Emergency Management at the Community Health Care Association of New York State, who has sent our contact information to their membership on their emergency communication system. The Primary Care Development Corporation of New York, which represents area health centers, is also sharing our information with their contacts so they can request medicines and supplies from Direct Relief as needed.

Additionally, Direct Relief has been in touch with the National Association of County and City Health Officials—who represent all local public health departments; the National Association of Community Health Centers, the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics; the Health Resources and Services Administration; the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); and the national Medical Reserve Corps. All have expressed gratitude for Direct Relief’s offer of assistance and said they will stay in touch  as they form a better sense of medical needs.

Many of Direct Relief’s corporate supporters have given permission to use existing inventory for Hurricane Sandy relief efforts to help quicken the process when Direct Relief does receive requests. Longtime supporter, FedEx, has generously offered to provide in-kind transportation services to help send medical supplies to treat those affected by the storm.

To support Direct Relief’s emergency preparedness and response efforts, donate here.

Related posts on Hurricane Sandy:  Preparing for Emergency With Data AnalysisWho is Vulnerable During Hurricanes? Six Things to Know, Big Data vs. Big Storm: New Technology Informs Hurricane Sandy Preparedness, Response

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