What Past Disasters Tell Us About What Maui Needs Now


Our hearts ache for those in Maui; we wanted to share some insights as Maui enters the next phase of response. 

With more than three decades of experience in disasters and humanitarian assistance with data management solutions, we would suggest that efficient and effective relief operations need to organize around a central registry or clearinghouse. Doing so helps to identify recovery needs, informs the administration of benefits, can be used to vet and verify service providers, and support the equitable distribution of resources.

Most importantly, the more comprehensive the information is in the early phases of recovery, the more the local community knows about its own needs, and the more it can better direct its own recovery. 

Here are a few examples:

A single case record accessible across the NGO sector will allow for faster access to vulnerable households and also help to equitably manage financial assistance and direct services. Individual and aggregate data about clients will offer invaluable insights as to how well communities are being served and detail their persistent and unmet needs.

Mental health is an acute need after a disaster like this. Coordinating access to clients in need and verifying the mental health professionals who volunteer is necessary to protect everyone involved.

The coordination of federal, state, and county assistance will need the cooperation and coordination with voluntary, nonprofit, and faith-based groups—as these groups offer decades of experience and large cadres of proven staff and volunteers. Many of these organizations already exist in the local community. 

A clearinghouse provides increased stewardship over donated dollars through program controls for eligibility, as well as reducing duplication of benefits. Donated funds from a variety of sources may be made available and dispersed directly from the case record to increase equity. This also simplifies the administration of assistance through a single platform rather than multiple platforms, which consume precious financial resources with excessive overhead and administrative costs.

A clearinghouse of affected households and families also facilitates the use of a call center for inbound calls for assistance. This also helps ensure that outbound messages are delivered promptly about new assistance programs, deadlines for applications, notices of community meetings, and so forth.

A multidimensional case record should include impacts, vulnerabilities, risks, assistance received, services needed, plus construction services, donated goods, and other items for effective long-term recovery, analytics for decision-makers, and reports for funders and donors.

Finally, organizing a clearinghouse of information supports the use of geospatial data layers to understand all phases of recovery, including transitional housing, distribution of benefits, volunteer coordination, and the components of long-term recovery. It becomes a tool to help impacted communities define their vision for their own future.

Visionlink data systems have been used to respond to more than 300 disasters over time and are supporting more than a dozen disaster relief operations, currently. The main lesson? Working together, we can recover from disasters—and work to change another part of the world for good. 
But it takes a concerted effort to work together so that our efforts do not become fractured and divisive.