Donating Responsibly: The UPS Foundation Helps Weather the 2017 Storm Season

September 20, 2018
Joe Ruiz
Director of Humanitarian Relief & Resilience, Environment and Communications, The UPS Foundation

When Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria struck communities across the U.S. and the Caribbean, The UPS Foundation mobilized its Humanitarian Relief & Resilience Program — engaging strategic partners and UPS skilled volunteers — to bring swift solutions via its global logistics network and innovative drone technology.

UPS pledged more than $3 million in funding, logistics, and technical support within days, accessing budgeted emergency funding and in-kind commitments awarded prior to hurricane season. While announcing its support quickly, The UPS Foundation pledged equal amounts for urgent relief and long-term recovery. UPS logisticians facilitated over 350 supply shipments on behalf of partners such as the American Red Cross, CARE, CDC, Good360, FEMA, National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, The Salvation Army, UNICEF, and others.

The UPS Foundation quickly deployed a volunteer coordinator to Houston to help determine needs of nonprofit partners and community leaders mobilizing local UPS employees to help gut homes, resupply area schools, and assist impacted families. Four UPS Logistics Action Team members were also deployed to work with emergency management and humanitarian agencies to restore broken supply chains in Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean. UPS and Cyphy Works partnered to conduct the American Red Cross’s first-ever damage assessment using new tethered drone technology, identifying areas that were otherwise inaccessible due to flooding.

When Hurricane Irma hit less than two weeks after Harvey, The UPS Foundation’s Logistics Action Team coordinated American Red Cross support shipments, which included more than eight truckloads per day of cleaning supplies, food, comfort items, and clothing on behalf of the American Red Cross, and shipments of cleanup kits, bedding, hygienic supplies, and more for partners like The Salvation Army and Good360. On the ground, UPS Solutions Managers helped The Salvation Army and the American Red Cross distribute relief supplies in the Caribbean and Florida.

When Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 hurricane, hit Puerto Rico, cutting off access to essential services including water, UPS worked with FEMA and other partners like United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) USA and the governor of New York to transport supplies to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, via 30 charter flights and 95 ocean container shipments. Items including electric generators, water filters, pallets of canned goods, hygiene items, and cleaning kits were delivered via our smart logistics network. In Puerto Rico, UPS and UNICEF volunteers worked with local nonprofits and the governor of Puerto Rico to coordinate delivery of hygiene supplies for 60,000 people by transporting the kits to 10 designated humanitarian supply centers in Puerto Rico.

UPS continues to work with its humanitarian partners in 2018 in support of long-term recovery efforts. Working with Good360, UPS continues to transport mattresses, bedding, and rebuilding supplies to impacted communities. Working with Toolbank Disaster Relief Services, UPS has staged Toolbank trailers with thousands of tools and personal protective equipment for volunteers helping rebuild. With The Salvation Army, UPS continues to transport water purification systems to provide the affected communities with clean water.

While long-term recovery will last several years in these communities, UPS continues to partner with the top relief agencies to deliver the highest priority items needed for recovery. Meanwhile, well-intentioned individuals and groups continue to organize collection drives for these communities. UPS continues to help educate the general public to donate responsibly. While collecting clothing, food, bottled water, toys, and other household items may feel more emotionally satisfying than monetary donations, the impact of such material donations is counter-effective. Responsible donating means that even small financial contributions can do more good, for more people, more quickly and with greater efficiency, than unsolicited material donations. It is also crucial to remember that when the public sends funding to the disaster area, supplies are purchased from local businesses that are also distressed.

At UPS, donating responsibly means working strategically, playing to our strengths, engaging our people, and leveraging our key competencies to help our neighbors and communities recover as quickly as possible. The UPS Foundation is committed to strengthening communities, building resilience, and helping to build a culture of preparedness for our employees, our customers, and our communities. For more information on how UPS is helping businesses prepare for disaster in collaboration with the US Chamber Foundation, please visit Resilience in a Box.