Keith R. Thode, Chief Technology Officer, The Aidmatrix Foundation

When disasters strike we are often moved to action, wanting to make a real difference for the people we see impacted by natural or man-made tragedies.

My team at Aidmatrix and I often have the privilege of being among those ‘first responders’ helping assist people and communities in their greatest moments of crisis. Being there in person to serve at the time of the event is tactile and extremely gratifying. Often however, I am most proud of the work our staff and volunteers do via technology starting in advance and from remote locations, to empower thousands of people and mobilize millions of dollars to make a significant impact for communities in crisis.

Managing the unrequested relief supplies that are donated on site becomes a major effort.

When people are moved to give in the face of disaster, it often creates situations of “Too Much, Too Early and then Too Little, Too Late.”   In the days following a disaster people are motivated to package up quickly whatever is handy and bring it directly into the disaster area.  Then later, as the news cycles fade, their attentions naturally shift to other areas of concern, while the impacted area still struggles with the difficult task of Long Term Recovery.  For example, when I was deployed to West, Texas, immediately after an explosion there, our team’s first tasks were to help sort out the massive amounts of miscellaneous supplies and clothing that were arriving by the truckload.  We also supported efforts to set up a donation station outside of town to try and keep the materials from arriving at the crowded recovery area before they could be properly sorted and organized for distribution.   At the same time, I orchestrated an emergency “hot shot” of pet food supplies into the area to cover the first days of need.  Fortunately, technology can help us turn those situations into, as we say at Aidmatrix, the “Right Aid to the Right People at the Right Time™”.

In the spirit of National Preparedness Month, the first thing you can do to be an effective supporter in times of disaster is to plan ahead.  Having a preparedness plan can help your family, workplace and loved ones to be more resilient when disaster strikes close to home.

Preparation is extremely important when it comes to helping others in times of disaster, as well. Predetermining what assets you may have available to help, and giving some of those assets, whether  relief goods, money or your time, ahead of the disaster or in the slower paced Long Term Recovery phase in a community that had been impacted by a disaster will help you build a relationship with quality organizations in front line relief.  This will make you a more effective participant during the immediate recovery efforts of the next disaster.  For example, you could review the ongoing needs in response to the Tornadoes in Moore, Oklahoma by reviewing the NeedsFeed™ in our Microsoft Azure ReadyReach Portal dedicated to Moore, OK disaster response. 

The need for pet supplies is often overlooked in the aftermath of a disaster

One handy tool developed by Microsoft enables you to perform a lot of preparation, all in one app. With HelpBridge, you can prepare within your own network of family and friends for when you are affected by anything from a large scale disaster to a minor accident.  At the same time, the app also enables you to see real-time needs and dedicate your money, your time or your material items to help in response to recent disasters. 

I’m proud of our team for being on the forefront of leveraging technology to transform how our society responds to crisis.  Our community’s ability to handle and help during crisis can be more effective than ever thanks to preparation and advances in technology.