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Volume 32, Issue 2

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Wednesday, 03 April 2019 14:48

Donations Management: Handling the Second Disaster

Nearly 20 years ago, I had the humbling privilege to be assigned as the donations manager for the state of New York following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center.

I deployed from California to the New York State Emergency Operations Center in Albany via the interstate Emergency Management Assistance Compact. It was a cold, dreary first day in upstate New York. I entered Highway Patrol Headquarters, proceeded past the blast doors, and down into the Cold War fallout shelter in the basement. There was a buzz of subdued, chaotic efficiency. The New York State Emergency Operations Center was in full activation.

The State Emergency Management Office’s (SEMO) deputy director covered the initial ramp-up to the “second disaster,” a flood of well-intentioned but not always useful in-kind donations. Within the first few days of the disaster, well-meaning people and organizations sent truckloads of what donations managers call “stuff”. Stuff was piling up all over the streets of New York City and around ground zero. There were literally piles of stuff clogging the streets, impeding access to the disaster site, and getting in the way of first responders’ ability to respond.