Calm before the Storms: Direct Relief Employs Data Analytics and Visualization Technologies to Expand Global Hurricane Preparedness



  • Massive medical pre-positioning effort spans nine U.S. states, nine countries at risk of storms
  • Advanced data analysis and visualization tools drive the pre-positioning of medical essentials
  • Researchers at Direct Relief have identified U.S. populations most vulnerable to hurricanes

With the 2014 hurricane season officially underway, humanitarian organization Direct Relief has expanded its extensive medical pre-positioning efforts to safeguard dozens of communities in the U.S. and internationally that are particularly vulnerable to storm-related health risks.

“Smart preparation is the best defense when a hurricane strikes. Nonprofit clinics and health centers have repeatedly demonstrated that they are a key component of an effective response and speedy recovery,” said Direct Relief Director of US Programs, Damon Taugher. “It is critical that clinics in areas most often hit by extreme weather are bolstered with additional medicines and supplies to use when the devastation first occurs.”

Through the use of powerful data analysis and visualization tools including those offered by technology companies Palantir and Esri, Direct Relief is able to strategically stage the Hurricane Preparedness Packs with trusted safety-net health facilities in socially vulnerable areas and flood zones along likely hurricane paths.

“Effective emergency response takes into account complex relationships between social factors and natural events,” said Direct Relief’s Director of Research and Analysis, Dr. Andrew Schroeder. “Understanding these relationships better through analytic technologies and techniques makes us more able to anticipate needs and mitigate risks.”

The pre-positioned materials include medical essentials identified as the most critically needed in the aftermath of hurricanes and other emergencies that prevent people from accessing the medicines and care they need.

The Hurricane Preparedness Packs, which comprise more than $1 million in medical resources, are bound for 63 health facilities near the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, the Caribbean, Central America, and the Philippines.

Each U.S. Hurricane Preparedness Pack holds enough medical supplies to treat 100 patients for a variety of conditions, from basic trauma injuries to chronic illnesses, for a 72-hour period, during which follow-on support can be mobilized. The International Modules contain supplies to care for 5,000 people for one month.

Direct Relief first developed the pre-positioned modules for nonprofit clinics and health centers in the U.S. following its extensive responses to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 and its subsequent work with the Texas Blue Ribbon Commission on Emergency Preparedness and Response.

Direct Relief is able to supply the Hurricane Preparedness Packs with donations from individuals, pharmaceutical and medical corporations, and through a long-standing relationship with FedEx.

The Hurricane Preparedness Packs are provided free of charge to health care safety-net facilities. If not used for an emergency, the materials are absorbed into clinics’ general inventory to provide care for low-income patients at the end of hurricane season on November 30.

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