Perhaps one of the best and most successful examples of applying private-sector expertise and agility to disaster response is the Aidmatrix Foundation. Established in 2000 with technology created by supply chain management software company i2 Technologies, Aidmatrix uses a Web portal to conduct matchmaking between donors and relief organizations involving the tracking, warehousing, transportation and distribution of products and services.
Aidmatrix, which has already been used in 20 major U.S. disasters, developed partnerships with FEMA and 46 states. For instance, during the Iowa flooding, a carpet manufacturer in California was going to dispose of some remnant material in a landfill, but then he realized he could offer to donate it through Iowa’s Aidmatrix portal. Habitat for Humanity responded online that it could use those remnants in its efforts to help house people. Representatives from UPS could see the donation made online and volunteer to donate the transportation costs. “This all occurs almost instantaneously,” said Scott McCallum, president and CEO of Aidmatrix and former governor of Wisconsin.
The matchmaking activity ensures that supplies get to where they are most needed, he said. “One problem is that many of the things people try to offer in the immediate aftermath of a disaster are really secondary,” McCallum said. “The perfect example is that in response to Sept. 11, people sent warehouses’ worth of material that were not needed or used.” And huge numbers of people wanted to go to Haiti to help following the January earthquake, even though they didn’t have an affiliation or needed skill. “So the upside is how generous people can be,” he said, “but the downside is that no matter how well intentioned, they can sometimes be ineffective or get in the way.”
Adding private-sector strategies to disaster management can benefit companies and those managing the disaster recovery. “We can apply this supply-chain technology used every day in the private sector,” he said. “We have the expertise and training to reconfigure it to each specific disaster in a short amount of time.”
[Photo courtesy of Barry Bahler/FEMA.]