Victim support in Wilson, North Carolina. PHOTO: Daniel Cima, Red Cross
The materials handling relief effort in the wake of Hurricane Florence, which struck the United States in North Carolina, is already being called upon, with requests for equipment and facilities reaching the American Logistics Aid Network (ALAN).
Shortly after the hurricane hit the coast, ALAN received requests for the loan of forklifts and pallet jacks in various locations in North Carolina, including Raleigh/Durham, Wilmington, Newbern, Greenville and Southern Pines.
There have also been requests for warehouse space in Winston Salem, temperature-controlled space in the Raleigh area and storage for up to 100 pallets in eastern Tennessee, Atlanta or possibly Virginia for up to three months.
Meanwhile, ALAN executive director Kathy Fulton says her phone and email have stayed busy with messages from people who have all been asking some variation of the same question: "What can we do?".
She says her organisation will continue to update the specific requests, but "meanwhile, there are still many ways all of us can put our shoulders to the wheel and begin to help the good people of the Carolinas put the pieces back together".
"If you're a business or individual with warehouse space, trucks, equipment, or expertise to share, go ahead and offer it now. The more advance information we have about available resources, the more quickly and effectively we'll be able to fulfil requests for assistance as they come in," she says.
She notes that donated materials that urgently need to get to disaster sites may be located much farther away and require more logistics support than one might imagine. "As a result, the seemingly random or remote location, service or piece of equipment you're offering may be just the ticket."
Fulton is advising against any new fundraising drives. "Although the intention behind these drives is good, they often create more challenges than they solve - including adding more products to a supply chain that is already under tremendous strain. At a time when transportation capacity to disaster-impacted markets is so overloaded, the last thing we need to do is choke it even more.
"If you're looking for a tangible way to engage your employees in hurricane relief, pick a humanitarian organisation like one of the many that ALAN supports and collect money for it instead. Such donations will be much more useful and efficient, especially right now. And unlike many post-disaster product donations (which often end up in landfills), they will not go to waste."
Wilmington appeared to be the worst-affected area and, at publication time, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper declared: "This remains a significant disaster that affects much of our state. The next few days will be long ones as the flooding continues."
The Red Cross is providing safe shelter and comfort for evacuees across multiple states. More than 17,000 people sought refuge in over 240 Red Cross and community shelters in the storm's aftermath.
Earlier in the week, the Red Cross said it had served 95,600 meals and snacks across eight states. About 2,200 Red Cross disaster workers from all over the country have been mobilised to help shelter, feed and support people affected by Florence. The organisation called in 140 emergency response vehicles and more than 120 trailers of equipment and supplies, including more than 150,000 ready-to-eat meals and enough cots and blankets for more than 42,000 people.
The latest hurricane comes almost a year since Hurricane Harvey devastated the Houston area. Hyundai Material Handling and Lonestar Forklift recently marked the anniversary of that disaster and were recognised for their partnership which made it possible for Woodlands Church, a designated relief centre, to distribute to victims of the storm a significant quantity of essential items such as bottled water, baby supplies, blankets and other necessities.
"The pastor of the Woodlands Church was only a few hours into the relief efforts when its only forklift took an untimely death," says Josh McSwain, principal at LoneStar Forklift. "The quick-thinking Pastor Randy put a call into his friends at Lonestar Forklift in Houston, Texas."
Chuck Leone, executive VP and chief operating officer of Hyundai Material Handling, says he didn't hesitate when he heard about the situation: "We donated a brand-new 25L-7A forklift for this call to action as it was already on LoneStar Forklift's lot."
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, a super typhoon hit Guangdong in China on Sunday, after ripping through Hong Kong and Macau and killing scores of people in the Philippines.
There's no word yet on the impact on materials handling manufacturing, nor on any industry efforts to assist in the relief work.