inReach in the Field: Responding to Needs in a Disaster Area

In the aftermath of an earthquake, hurricane, fire or any catastrophic event, thousands are often displaced and require basic needs. A cooked meal in those circumstances can be difficult to acquire, but that food shared among strangers may bring a brief moment of encouragement to a tired first responder or a stressed individual in a shelter.

World Central Kitchen (WCK) is a nonprofit that works to create solutions to hunger and poverty around the world. In the wake of natural disasters, WCK has deployed teams to California, Florida, Hawaii, Guatemala, Indonesia, North Carolina and more to provide meals to those in need. When WCK’s teams are in the field, they carry inReach® satellite communicators to always be connected.

World Central Kitchen

Photo Credit: World Central Kitchen

Delivering Aid and Reducing Risk

WCK teams — and all those who provide aid and relief in disaster areas — encounter many logistical challenges due to problems with critical infrastructure. When power is out and cellular and internet networks are down or operating intermittently at best, having a reliable means to communicate is essential.

Aid workers venture into unknown areas and encounter natural hazards such as flooding or damaged structures, which makes traveling difficult and puts their teams at risk. When teams can communicate and navigate effectively, that risk is reduced.

“We can’t put our people in danger,” WCK’s Erich Broksas said. “We recently had a team send a request for help from an inReach when they were out in the field and had difficulty traveling in Wilmington, North Carolina, after Hurricane Florence. We were able to identify their exact location because of inReach.”

When a WCK team is deployed to a location to deliver food or set up a distribution site, staff back at an operations center need to know that the team has arrived safely and can begin to distribute resources. WCK uses inReach devices to track their teams in the field, and the teams can then report back if they are delayed or arrived successfully.

“Oftentimes, we are delivering food to shelters and first responders in difficult weather conditions and in precarious situations around downed trees and power lines, flooded rivers and more. Knowing that our team has arrived safely at the destination means we can meet our mission to provide a hot meal to those in need when they need it most,” Broksas said. “Using inReach technology, we can have a common operating picture of our teams in the field and communicate effectively when needed.”

World Central Kitchen

Photo Credit: World Central Kitchen

WCK Responds to Needs Around the Globe

Chef José Andrés founded WCK after seeing the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti. In the years that followed, WCK teams have served hundreds of thousands of meals to emergency response teams and residents in impacted areas. Most notably, in the days and weeks after Hurricane Maria struck the island, WCK teams and more than 19,000 volunteers served more than 3.6 million meals in every Puerto Rico municipality from 25 kitchens.

After Hurricane Michael made landfall as the third largest recorded hurricane to hit the U.S., WCK relief teams served more than 150,000 meals at 55 distribution sites in the Florida Panhandle region. WCK responded earlier this year to help residents in Indonesia after earthquakes and a tsunami impacted communities in Lombok and Sulawesi. Hundreds of thousands of meals were distributed at numerous locations in those areas.

Recently, WCK teams have responded to provide aid in Northern California to evacuees, firefighters and first responders impacted by the fires in that region. “This is probably the first cooked meal we’ve had in a week,” one of the firefighters from the front lines shared with WCK. “We really do appreciate it.”

WCK has expanded globally since its inception, and the nonprofit organization provides training on food safety and sanitation, education to support meal programs at schools to encourage attendance, culinary industry job training and support for food ventures in low-income communities.

Broksas added that while serving a hearty meal to a family in need or a firefighter coming off the line is an important component of WCK’s mission, food can be a powerful agent of change. “Chef Andrés and everyone involved with World Central Kitchen believes in the power of food to empower communities and strengthen economies.”

Thanks to Erich Broksas, head of strategic partnerships at World Central Kitchen, for contributing to this post. Learn more about WCK on their website, and follow their efforts on Facebook®, Twitter® and Instagram®.

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