When Disaster Strikes

member of National Guard helping to deliver supplies to woman in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria

September is Disaster Preparedness Month and it appears 2020 will be another bad year for natural disasters, with California already experiencing its second-largest wildfire season and 13 hurricanes forming in the Atlantic Ocean before September. The deadly wildfires and hurricanes highlight the need to be prepared for disasters and provide aid when tragedy strikes. At many NIB associated nonprofit agencies, preparing for disaster is business as usual.

The Lighthouse for the Blind in St. Louis has, for decades, specialized in packaging various medical kits for first responders and military personnel. When an opportunity arose in 2014 to buy a small, woman-owned business called Quake Kare, a supplier of ER™ Emergency Ready Disaster Preparedness Kits and Emergency Supplies, they wasted no time expanding their product line.

Founded initially with earthquake survival in mind, Quake Kare extended the line to include survival kits for offices, schools, and tornado shelters, “bug out” evacuation bags, Lockdown Survival Kits, and “Stop the Bleed” kits for active shooter situations. The kits contain emergency supplies to survive almost any disaster, including tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, and pandemics. The kits, packaged in portable packs or buckets, include essential items to fulfill a disaster victim’s needs for food and water, first aid, shelter, communication, lighting, sanitation, hygiene, and search and rescue.

The Lighthouse assembles more than 60 types of disaster survival kits, employing three full-and part-time employees who are blind or visually impaired to run the Quake Kare kitting operation. During surges, such as when an earthquake hits California, Lighthouse operations can quickly and efficiently move additional employees to the kitting lines.

With wildfires raging in California and Colorado, NewView Oklahoma is helping U.S. Forest Service first responders with their perilous and challenging job. NewView is the primary provider of fire hoses to the U.S. government. Their employees cut the hoses to 25, 50, and 100-foot lengths, then add couplings, stamp the hoses, roll them into coils, and ship them to the U.S. Forest Service. NewView’s employees who are visually impaired or blind are honored to serve when disaster strikes.

The wildland fire hoses produced by NewView have a smaller diameter and are lighter weight than the fire hoses used by municipal fire departments, so they can be carried more easily over longer distances in rough terrain. Fire hose production provides consistent rewarding employment and at the same time helps the brave efforts of the U.S. Forest Service Fire Fighters.

In late October 2017, New York City mayor’s office asked the New York State Preferred Source Program for New Yorkers Who Are Blind (NYSPSP) to assemble custom kits to help with Puerto Rico’s recovery efforts after the island was hit by Hurricane Maria. The rush order supplied families with much-needed clothing and personal care items. It was an order NYSPSP and employees working at Alphapointe’s New York location were honored to fulfill.

More than 100 items were included in the kits, ranging from clothing, undergarments, and pajamas in sizes from infant through larger child sizes, to personal hygiene items – supplies hastily evacuating families wouldn’t necessarily have had time to gather and take with them. Alphapointe shipped 360 kits immediately after the order was placed and assembled an additional 16 pallets containing 350 kits.

The order was about more than just material items, it was also about providing hope to families whose lives were completely upended by the hurricane. For some Alphapointe personnel, the work assignment was also deeply personal. Two employees involved in filling the order are originally from Puerto Rico and worked on the project while awaiting news about family members on the island. Thankfully, all were found safe.

LHB Industries’ unofficial motto for the Quake Kare line is ‘be prepared, not scared.’ It’s a motto that can easily apply to a number of NIB associated agencies where employees who are blind stand ready to respond quickly when disaster strikes.