Learning the lessons of Hurricane Florence

Learning the lessons of Hurricane Florence

Preparing for future disasters requires surveying past relief efforts.

North Carolina, USA

What we did

After Hurricane Florence slammed into North Carolina in 2018, the outpouring of help was tremendous. In the months afterward, more than 75,000 volunteers donated more than 1.7 million hours to help with the recovery.

But in the aftermath any huge disaster, making the best use of all the volunteers and the deluge of donations can be an enormous challenge. As part of IBM’s response to Hurricane Florence, a team of 12 IBM experts from six countries spent four weeks looking for better ways to coordinate emergency responses, donations, and volunteers.

One idea was to better track the donations that pour into the state after disasters –– and getting those goods to those who need them. Web-based forms, for example, would allow volunteer organizations to make requests, donors to make offers, and organizations to register their warehouses to receive goods.

The IBM team also recommended tracking the work of volunteers who sign up on the state’s website and getting their feedback following their experiences. And a greater social media presence would make more people aware of volunteer opportunities. “IBM stepped up in a big way,” said Kristi Jones, chief of staff for Gov. Roy Cooper. “It’s not enough to get through the storm, you want to learn through the storm.”

The look back offers improvements for not only North Carolina, but for any place preparing for a disaster.

IBM Service Corps USA4 spends a day of service in Lumberton, North Carolina volunteering with Baptists on Mission helping rebuild a home impacted by Hurricane Florence flooding.