Responding to the Wildfires in Hawaii
On August 8, 2023, a series of wildfires broke out in Hawaii. Affecting Maui and other island communities, the wind-driven fires have led to mass evacuations, widespread damage, and numerous lives lost.
Immediately after the wildfires started, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation mobilized its capabilities to quickly assess the situation in coordination with the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii. The Foundation is committed to working with the private sector, nonprofits, and government at all levels to support the businesss community’s humanitarian response.
As part of this response, our team hosted a coordination call on Wednesday, August 16 to hear from organizations and partners that are directly impacted and actively responding to the situation in Hawaii. Speakers included FEMA Deputy Administrator Erik A. Hooks, Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement CEO Kuhio Lewis; Chamber of Commerce Hawaii President & CEO Sherry Menor-McNamara; American Red Cross Vice President of Disaster Programs Jennifer Pipa; Hawaii’s Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism Director James Tokioka; and Maui Chamber of Commerce President Pamela Tumpap.
Participants shared the latest updates and how the business community can best help. You can also watch the replay here.
Recovery Operations & Meeting Housing Needs are Top Priority
As Deputy Administrator Hooks explained, FEMA is working with state, federal, and volunteer partners on the ground to carry out search and recovery operations and support survivors as they begin to navigate recovery.
“The level of damage and loss in the affected areas is not like anything we’ve seen before,” Hooks shared. “Disaster recovery will be a long haul for everyone involved.”
Through strategic partnerships with the Salvation Army, Hawaii’s Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, and others, the American Red Cross is actively working to meet immediate needs of the impacted communities, such as housing solutions—moving survivors from shelters to hotels—meals, mental health support, and financial assistance.
Jennifer Pipa, vice president of disaster programs at the American Red Cross, explained that in addition to the 300+ Red Cross volunteers deployed to the island, the local Maui community is offering tremendous support.
Cross-Sector Partnerships are Key to Rebuilding
Across the island, cross-sector partnerships have been critical in delivering immediate assistance and long-term recovery. James Tokioka, director of the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism for Hawaii, shared more about its collaboration with the Red Cross to get victims of the fire out of shelters and into hotels, helping bring some sense of normalcy to their lives. The department is also working with the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii to develop a group task force for economic recovery.
Additionally, FEMA is working with the Red Cross, and state and county officials to ensure survivors receive assistance they need as quickly as possible. For example, the agency has worked closely with the governor and state of Hawaii to launch the Hawaii Fire Relief Housing Program, aimed at connecting Maui residents with property owners and vacant houses.
Cash Donations are the Best Way to Help
Sherry Menor-McNamara, president and CEO at the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, stressed four ways companies can help most right now:
- Donate to the business relief fund
- Donate bulk items and equipment, such as solar generators, diapers, and other items deemed necessary by relief organizations on the ground
- Funding and access to mental health services
- Guidance on next steps for Hawaiian businesses and their employees
Maui Chamber of Commerce President Pamela Tumpap shared more immediate needs through which funding from the private sector could help address, including emergency grants to cover temporary business operations (i.e., pop-up stores, online sales), business continuity plans, employee financial support, and marketing/promotion as small businesses begin to recover.Despite the current challenges and hardship that the Maui community is facing, they remain resilient, and their 150-year-old Lahaina Banyan Tree that so many who visit the island cherish is still standing, symbolizing the community’s resiliency and unified effort to rebuild.
If your company has goods or services you are interested in donating, please reach out to email@example.com.
Additional needs and a list of in-kind donations will be shared in the coming days and weeks ahead as the situation in Hawaii unfolds.
The private sector has already stepped up to provide critical resources.
- Airlines such as Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines are sending rescue flights with relief supplies, and American Airlines, Southwest, and United have sent services to help people evacuate.
- Amazon has been working with its disaster aid partners, as well as local emergency management authorities to help with search and rescue operations, family reunification, finding shelters for residents, and evacuation of tourists.
- FedEx and its partners at the American Red Cross, Direct Relief, Team Rubicon, and World Central Kitchen are deploying critical needs for medicine, shelter, hygiene kits, food, and water.
- The Four Seasons Resort Maui is donating supplies and food to shelters and first responders, housing displaced employees, and providing daily meals to those in need.
- Skechers USA, Inc. is shipping tens of thousands of new shoes, apparel, socks and backpacks to impacted communities.
- The UPS Foundation is partnering with the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Red Lightning, American Logistics Aid Network, and Information Technology Disaster Resource Center to provide sheltering and feeding for impacted families and restore communications on the island.
The private sector has a long history of supporting communities in times of disaster, and these are just a few examples of how companies are assisting relief efforts in Hawaii. Currently, we are tracking nearly 50 companies actively working with trusted partners or providing monetary donations on our Corporate Aid Tracker. If your company is not listed on our tracker, submit your commitment here.
The U.S. Chamber Foundation has a number of business-led solutions to help build more resilient communities in the U.S. and around the world, including our Disaster Help Desk for Business, which is assisting impacted small business owners as they navigate federal programs available to them and recovery next steps. To learn more about our programs or partnership opportunities, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.