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Disaster relief failure: lack of appropriate clothing distribution

Posted by on Nov 7, 2012 |

Step One

Set up spoke drop locations city-wide with a central hub such as the Jacob Javits Center. When disaster strikes, people know to take their donations to a central place. When mobilized, both city and volunteer vehicles will bring donations to the central hub.

Clearly the distribution structure needs to have fluid elements and contingency plans. We’d start with what if roads, bridges or tunnels are impassable?

Step Two

Volunteers will show up at the hub to sort and tag donations. They’ll use multi-lingual, handheld tagging devices with long-term battery power that can be wirelessly and centrally programmed.

    These devices will identify things like:

  • Season vs seasonless
  • Men’s, women’s, unisex, child
  • Size
  • Type (coat, hat, gloves, pants)
  • Date of receipt

Step Three

Tagged items get grouped into bar coded containers.

Step Four

Early responders and relief boots on the ground can relay into the hub what is needed and where. No longer will that two-piece, lavender prom dress show up where a warm winter coat would have been great.


Long-term container storage post-disaster. Storage proximity to transportation and potential roadway disruptions.


When disaster strikes, we can expect a massive outpouring of volunteers. People want to help, they just need to know when and where and how. The labor-intensive chore of sorting and tagging will most certainly be filled as long as the public is aware of the opportunity.

With data driven inventory, this sorted container system becomes useful to any disaster location. No more chaos, no more waste – especially of people’s good intention. When a massive earthquake occurs in a tropical climate, we won’t be sending wool coats to a location that needs shorts and t-shirts.

What ideas do you have? Can you help me with the next step?