Author: Paul

Disaster Response: The New Normal

Disaster Response: The New Normal


Nonprofits aim to provide Thanksgiving meals to Hurricane Ian survivors. More help is needed.

November 12, 2016


Sandra McDevitt

When Hurricane Matthew hit the United States in October, many people were without electricity, running water or power due to the storm. Many lost their homes.

They needed help, and a lot of it.

As the storm made landfall, nonprofits rushed to the Gulf Coast to provide meals, medicine and supplies. They also took up what was already happening on the ground, serving as local volunteers and helping with water, food and shelter.

It was the largest disaster the nonprofit sector had ever faced, exceeding Hurricane Katrina’s catastrophic destruction.

And it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to strengthen a community and show how nonprofits can be a central part of disaster response.

“The mission of nonprofits is to give hope to people in need,” says John C. Moore, program director for Disaster Response Solutions at United Way of Greater Tampa Bay and organizer of a fundraising event benefiting nonprofits from around the country who have supported hurricane survivors. “If you can use your expertise and you have the capacity, and you have the network, you can bring hope to people who haven’t seen it.”

But disaster events are only the start of what nonprofits are facing. The nonprofit sector is grappling with a “growing sense of uncertainty and volatility,” says Brian St. Pierre, dean of the School of Business and Public Policy at the University of Georgia and former President of the National Association of Social Workers.

“So we are going to have to evolve in how we address our economic, social and ethical imperatives,” he says.

That means working to keep donors and volunteers engaged and adapting to a world that isn’t always predictable in terms of weather, security and political instability.

“Disaster preparedness and response is at the heart of everything we do in the community,” says Carol Gaudette, president and CEO of the Gulf Coast Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Science and co-chair of the national Disaster Preparedness & Recovery Council. “That’s why in the face of these disasters we always say it’s in

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