Best Disaster Response and Community Resilience Program: IBM

IBM: Investing Its Expertise to Deliver Superior Disaster Response

IBM has focused its expertise and resources to deliver efficient results in times of crisis.


When a major disaster occurs, IBM applies its consulting expertise and technology to solve problems and help those affected to recover. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to disaster response, yet the urgent and critical need for real solutions, deployed quickly, is always there.

Through the IBM Services Grants for Disaster Citizenship, IBM has assembled a dynamic portfolio of consulting and technology grants to meet diverse disaster needs. On an ongoing basis, this initiative identifies and documents specific assets available across all sectors of IBM that can be deployed for disaster response, recovery, and preparedness activities.

The IBM Services Grants for Disaster Citizenship initiative has helped education and nonprofit organizations enhance their IT infrastructure, leadership, and technology skills. Solutions and offerings are identified based on our business assets, and are developed and improved in collaboration with not-for-profit organizations.

In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, IBM focuses on providing systems thinking and leadership to guide government and relief organizations, and to enhance their capacity to properly handle critical information. In addition to the traditional donations of technology resources, consultants and technologists deliver value to relief and recovery efforts in disaster areas.

What IBM Has Accomplished

Since 2001, IBM has responded to more than 38 disasters in 22 countries. Beginning in 2009, IBM focused on proactively identifying and detailing resources that could be used for disaster-related-services grants.

These services grants translate into many singular relief efforts. For example, during the Hurricane Sandy response, one grant provided an IT inventory and assessment at nine extensively damaged New York City police precincts to help them come back online.

Another grant delivered a custom workshop for economic development corporations supported by New York City Small Business Services, to help guide small businesses through recovery to resiliency.

A third grant helped Points of Light establish a Volunteer Reception Center (VRC) on Long Island to aid the recovery while also assisting in documenting a start-up VRC model for future disaster events.

The impact of IBM’s Hurricane Sandy relief can be measured in multiple ways. More than 50 agencies in New York and New Jersey, more than 200 participants, and ultimately thousands of clients and residents were helped through our efforts. The company’s consulting, expertise, and technology enabled the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund as it moved from start-up to fully functioning foundation within three months.

IBM produced training webinars to support recipients of the 226 KidSmart Young Explorer Early Learning systems that IBM donated to shelters, schools, and family-services locations. Their operations plan and technology system were deployed to help the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund efficiently manage and disperse funds raised to nearly a dozen long-term recovery groups working in hard-hit areas.

Through these grants, IBM is able to identify new services and products for possible use in future disasters. One example is the ongoing development of Crisis Tracker, a new tool that can leverage social media for situational awareness and decision making during a disaster. To further align this product for disaster use, IBM was able to conduct three pilots in 2012, including for Hurricane Sandy.

Why This Project Makes Sense

The IBM Services Grants program itself—upon which this initiative is based—has received overwhelmingly positive feedback. In a survey, 95 % of Services Grants recipients said their grant has had or will have a positive impact on their organization, while 98 % said IBM should provide the offering to other organizations.

IBM knows it is vital to be agile, responsive, and creative when responding to disasters. Receiving in-kind services is, in many cases, a new experience for nonprofits that may be accustomed to receiving cash, supplies, and volunteers. IBM continuously improves how they work with partners to make these grants, and systematically seek feedback to learn from them.

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