The (Not-So) Calm Before the Storm

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The (Not-So) Calm Before The Storm

Years ago, the swimming star Esther Williams had a question she was asked so often, she had a card printed with the answer, “Yes, I still swim.”

Although ALAN isn’t quite that famous (or aquatic), we can relate.  Because each time a hurricane starts to form, we have one question that seems to pop up more than all the others combined:

“What is ALAN doing to help before the next hurriciane hits?

So since we are in the heart of hurricane season, now seems like an ideal time to share this Q&A with you. 

We hope it will give you a better sense of how we roll – and how we’re always working hard to save lives through logistics.    

On behalf of all of us at ALAN, thank you for supporting us and those we serve.  

Mark Richards
ALAN Board Chair


FAQs About How ALAN Operates Prior to Hurricanes

What is ALAN doing to help before a tropical storm or hurricane hits?

When predicted disasters loom, ALAN is often in active mode long before we begin receiving, posting and fulfilling logistics relief requests.

During the days leading up to a storm, much of what we do is largely behind the scenes, including:

  • Actively interfacing with our government and industry partners to promote greater collaboration and situational awareness that will aid relief and recovery efforts; 
  • Contacting and meeting with government and industry partners that are located in potentially impacted areas to procure and provide situational awareness; 
  • Reviewing the infrastructure and industries that are likely to be affected so we are ready to coordinate a private-sector supply chain call with the right audiences; 
  • Checking with our nonprofit networks about what logistics resources they anticipate needing;
  • And amplifying important safety and preparation messages from various news and disaster preparation sources to help keep area businesses and residents informed

Why are these behind-the-scenes activities useful?

All of these activities help position ALAN and its partners to react rapidly and meaningfully as a disaster unfolds.  Over the past 14 years of assisting with relief for every major U.S. hurricane, we’ve discovered they’re truly the best ways we can ensure that storm-impacted areas get the logistics help and resources they need. 

After working with hurricanes so long, doesn’t ALAN pretty well know what’s going to be needed?  If so, why isn’t it already jumping in and getting logistics resources ready to go?

Even though all hurricanes have many things in common, each storm also has very different outcomes and pain points. And you really can’t predict what those will be – and where relief organizations will require supply chain assistance the most – until after a hurricane has moved through.

For example, some areas may have a compromised water supply that puts them sorely in need of things like water purification systems, while others may have a more immediate requirement for transporting things like inflatable boats to assist first responders who are conducting flood rescues.  Additionally, certain areas may suffer more property damage and loss, which may lead to a greater need to help support and supply shelters.  It really runs the gamut – and sometimes these needs change by the hour or minute.

That’s why ALAN doesn’t self-deploy, because it might tie up valuable resources that are needed by the first responders who are working to save lives. It’s also why we always tell logistics professionals not to self-deploy either.  Everything we do is tied to a tangible request from a humanitarian organization that is actively providing relief to impacted areas.

Like the best supply chains, ALAN’s work is both predictive and demand-driven.

Speaking of tangible requests, when do you typically begin receiving requests for assistance?  

Most of our requests for assistance usually arrive well after a hurricane has hit, because it often takes government and relief officials several days or weeks to get the lay of the land and figure out what’s really needed in terms of donated space, transportation, equipment and services. Some requests can even come in long after a specific hurricane has stopped making headlines. For example, ALAN is still supporting clean-up and recovery efforts in the wake of several major hurricanes in years past, and we probably will be for some time to come.  

In light of this, we hope people will click here to bookmark our hurricane micro-site and visit it frequently in the weeks ahead, because contrary to how it might appear, hurricane relief isn’t just a sprint. It’s also a marathon, and there will probably be many opportunities to help.

Is there a way organizations can be helping now?

Absolutely. They can always make a monetary donation to help fund ALAN’s relief activities and allow us to provide help where it’s needed most.

Click here for the website page where 3PLs, trucking companies, warehousing companies and other logistics companies can pre-offer their space, services and equipment. We find these pre-offers to be hugely helpful, and we encourage organizations to make them even if they’re not located near a disaster area, because sometimes the items that need to be stored or transported can be located quite far away from a disaster area.

Are there any final comments you’d like to add?

Now is a great time to remind people that ALAN is only looking for offers of donated space, transportation or equipment, not offers to purchase these things. Everything we provide to relief organizations is supplied free of charge, so assisting us is solely a humanitarian opportunity, not a business deal.


 ALAN’s Helpful Post-Hurricane Do’s And Don’ts

Do make sure your employees are safe – and supported.

If any of your facilities were located in a strom's path, be sure to check in with your employees to ensure they are safe and sound. And if they have been impacted, make helping them and their families your first priority, because even though many government and non-profits will be stepping in to provide relief, few things are more meaningful than knowing that the people we work with (and for) have our backs.

Don’t forget that ALAN is here for you.

Have any of your operations been impacted by the storm? Do you need any specific information or insights – and if so, what kind?  Drop us an e-mail at ops@alanaid.org.  We’ll do our best to get you a timely answer or to put you in touch with someone who can.

Do let us know if you might be willing to help. 

If you have warehouse space, trucks, equipment, or expertise to share, go ahead and offer it now. (And please know that we understand you’re making an offer, not a guaranteed commitment to provide services.  It just lets us know that you’re OK with us reaching out and at least asking if you might be able to assist )  The more information we have about available resources, the more quickly and effectively we’ll be able to fulfill requests for assistance as they come in. 

Don’t assume you can’t be of help just because your operations are nowhere near the the affected area.

Often the donated materials that urgently need to get to disaster sites may be located much farther away and require more logistics support than you might imagine. As a result, the seemingly random or remote location, service or piece of equipment you’re offering may be just the ticket.

Do check ALAN’s web site and disaster micro-site often throughout hurricane season. 

We’ll be updating it frequently as conditions change, including posting specific relief requests and sharing any important updates about other named storms.

Don’t host a collection drive for products.

Although the intention behind these drives is good, they often create more challenges than they solve – including adding more products to a supply chain that is already under tremendous strain. At a time when transportation capacity to disaster-impacted markets is so overloaded, the last thing we need to do is choke it even more. 

Do consider helping in other ways instead.

If you’re looking for a tangible way to engage your employees in hurricane relief, pick a humanitarian organization like one of the many that ALAN supports and collect money for it instead. Such donations will be much more useful and efficient, especially after a storm. And unlike many post-disaster product donations (which often end up in landfills), they will not go to waste.



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