“No Time like the Present”: Lessons Learned on Timeliness of Disaster Donations

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 11:30 AM
Room: Booth 48
Oral Presentation
Mary NELAN , University of Delaware
Samantha PENTA , Disaster Research Center, Newark, DE
Tricia WACHTENDORF , University of Delaware, Newark, DE
In the aftermath of each disaster, material goods flow into the disaster affected area. Given with the intention to help survivors, the influx of items often generates what donation management personnel refer to as a “second disaster” or, in other words, an over abundance of items that are inappropriate, difficult to sort, costly to transport or store, and challenging to distribute. This paper takes a closer examination of one contributing factor to the problems associated with the disaster management process: the timeliness of donations. Drawing interviews conducted following several disasters events that struck the United States in 2012 and 2013, as well as interviews following Hurricane Katrina’s devastation in 2005, this study explores the extent to which donation supply is often incongruous with donation demand. Lessons learned from these disaster events suggest the need for a system that accounts for the progression of need in affected communities. The social and logistical pressures on organizations to accept non-priority items are discussed, as are the benefits reaped by organizations that employed timelines of donations management.