When wildfires, tornadoes and hurricanes strike, communities must respond to a sudden surge in demand for medical care and medicines. With hurricane season underway, AmeriCares – a nonprofit disaster relief and humanitarian aid organization – has posted a timely article about what goes on behind the scenes to be response-ready when disaster strikes.
Here, Garrett Ingoglia, Director, Emergency Response for AmeriCares, shares details about how his organization works in disaster-struck communities and how they collaborate with companies such as AstraZeneca.
What kind of support does AmeriCares provide for disaster relief and how quickly does AmeriCares deploy those resources?
AmeriCares provides medicine, medical supplies and other emergency items to help people who have been affected by disasters in the United States and around the world. We respond to approximately 25 disasters per year, including hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and other natural and human-caused events.
Here in the U.S., AmeriCares can deploy resources very quickly. We often send our first shipment out within 24 hours of a request for assistance, and we can get emergency supplies into the hands of individuals and families within 72 hours of their initial request.
How does AmeriCares assess the needs of people in disaster areas?
In a disaster situation, we assesses emergency needs by reviewing situation reports produced at the local, state, and Federal government levels, and by working with our local partners — clinics, food banks, and departments of health — to understand the magnitude and type of disaster-related need. We also participate in coordinating calls with relevant state and local Voluntary Organizations Operating in Disasters (VOAD) chapters to get a clear understanding of the need as well as how other organizations are responding, so we do not duplicate effort. In addition, we often deploy staff to the affected area to assess needs and gain situational awareness.
How does AmeriCares get medicines into the hands of patients quickly in an emergency?
Great partners and strong logistics are two reasons why we are able to provide such critical assistance to patients so quickly. On the “supply” side, corporations like AstraZeneca provide us with critical medicines and supplies needed to save lives and improve health following a disaster. On the “demand” side, our extensive network of clinics and other response partners assess immediate needs and provide the emergency supplies directly to those who need it most. Our strong logistical capabilities enable us to deliver supplies to our partners—by land, sea or air—quickly and efficiently.
How do industry partnerships such as that with AstraZeneca make a difference to AmeriCares and the people you serve?
We value the industry partnerships we have in place to help ensure that important pharmaceutical products are available in the AmeriCares Emergency Pharmacy in our Stamford warehouse on an ongoing basis. For example, whenever a U.S. emergency arises, AstraZeneca product donations are ready to go within hours and AstraZeneca replenishes the supply inventory on an as needed basis.
AstraZeneca supplies have helped hundreds of people here at home and around the world who have been affected by disasters. In the U.S., AstraZeneca products have been particularly helpful in providing comfort to individuals displaced from their homes by disasters. For example, when tornadoes ripped through eastern Kentucky in March of 2012 and forced hundreds of people to flee their homes, AstraZeneca’s hygiene kits allowed 250 of these displaced families the opportunity to brush their teeth, bathe with soap and clean their clothes. While these are tasks some might take for granted, they can become a challenge in the face of a natural disaster.
In late June and early July of 2012, the Waldo Canyon fire swept through the Colorado Springs area, destroying more than 300 homes and filling the air with thick, black smoke. Medical clinics in the area reported an increase in the number of patients suffering from respiratory problems, particularly those with chronic conditions. AstraZeneca provided nebulizers and respiratory medications to help individuals with respiratory conditions who were impacted by the smoke.
These are just a few examples of how AstraZeneca and AmeriCares have worked together to make a difference for communities, families and individuals affected by disasters. We look forward to continuing our work with AstraZeneca and other pharmaceutical partners in the future.