Last year, Airlink supported 16 nonprofit organizations with their Hurricane Season responses, provided flights for 370 volunteers and supported the transportation of over 7,500 pounds of relief supplies to support impacted assist communities. June 1st marks the beginning of the Atlantic Hurricane Season, with most forecasts predicting 2021 to be the 6th consecutive “above average” season.
June 1st marks the beginning of the Atlantic Hurricane Season, with most forecasts predicting 2021 to be the 6th consecutive “above average” season. In fact, the first named storm of the season formed 10 days before the official start of the season, on May 22, 2021. For communities in disaster-prone areas and the humanitarian organizations that support them, the focus on preparedness is key.
2020 was the most active hurricane season on record, with 5 hurricanes making landfall in the United States (Hurricanes Isaias, Laura, Sally, Delta and Zeta), and 2 major hurricanes devastating communities in Central America (Hurricanes Eta and Iota). Last year, Airlink supported 16 nonprofit organizations with their responses in the aftermath of the storms, mobilizing more than 370 volunteers to provide medical aid and assistance, search and rescue, debris removal, and muck-and-gut services for damaged homes, meal distribution, and other critical services. Airlink also supported the transportation of over 7,500 pounds of relief supplies to assist communities affected by hurricanes Eta and Iota in Guatemala.
The dual emergency of COVID-19 and Atlantic Hurricane season in 2020 meant that both the private sector and the aid community faced a wide array of challenges. The pandemic had a profound impact on the operating models of responding organizations. From establishing safety protocols for volunteers, to identifying a different means of assisting people who have been displaced and need shelter, organizations had to adapt to new ways of working. Nonprofits have faced donor fatigue, meanwhile demand for logistics continues to outstrip supply, and transportation costs continue to be higher than the seasonal averages.
At National VOAD’s annual conference in May this year, Airlink’s Director of Humanitarian Programs, Stephanie Steege, and American Logistics Aid Network’s Kathy Fulton talked about the unique challenges of responding to a record-breaking hurricane season in the midst of a pandemic. The discussion highlighted the need to look at logistics as the backbone of any response – and a programmatic area in its own right. Time and time again, Airlink and ALAN have observed that, no matter how well-planned a response, if the means to get aid and skilled personnel on-site quickly is not present, timely assistance is impossible. The need to form strategic partnerships ahead of peak hurricane season is even more pressing.
Reflecting on lessons learned from the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, one thing is certain: nonprofits can benefit from private sector assets to mitigate the risk of market volatility. Identifying collaboration opportunities and establishing partnerships ahead of emergencies is the most important way to prepare for disasters. Airlink’s long-standing relationships with the aviation and logistics sectors have proved critical in enhancing the response capacity of our nonprofit partner organizations.
As the effects of climate change continue to increase the frequency and intensity of natural disasters, Airlink will continue playing a role in building a broader coalition of NGOs, philanthropic, and private sector entities committed to developing solutions for a more disaster-resilient future.