September 14, 2017
Operation Airlift Irma
Rescue Global and S.A.R.A.I.D are teaming up with Airlink and Patient Airlift Services (PALS) to deliver a high volume of humanitarian aid to the Caribbean islands devastated by Hurricane Irma. The Operation Airlift Irma partnership will work with 8 air carriers and 60+ NGO partners to deliver aid such as medical supplies, food, water, sanitation, hygiene supplies, emergency shelter, telecommunications, and generators to provide emergency electricity.
We are working in close collaboration with the Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), the UN World Food Program (WFP) Logistics Cluster, Government of the British Virgin Islands, USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID / OFDA), FEMA / VITEMA, to ensure a credible and effective response.
The Rescue Global role will be two-fold. Firstly, to gather needs assessments through satellite image assessment, aerial surveys, and ground surveys by our Pathfinder teams and our partners at S.A.R.A.I.D. This information will allow for prioritisation of aid across all islands affected by Irma, as well ensuring specific urgent needs are met, such as food, water, and medical assistance. In addition to ground and air teams, we are crowd-sourcing pre and post disaster satellite imagery analysis on the platform Zooniverse, in partnership with the University of Oxford, in order to generate “heat maps” of clear evidence of damage.
Secondly, Rescue Global will take on the role of coordinating aid deliveries to those most in need, receiving heavy aircraft from the continental USA into San Juan (Puerto Rico) provided by our partners at Airlink, from where Rescue Global will then push that aid forward, using a volunteer fleet of light aircraft provided by Airlink, Lift and PALS.
Airlink and Rescue Global are working with NGOs, the private sector, government, military and academic partners to vet shipments of aid materials from the US, ensuring that only those items that are needed are delivered to the dedicated coordination points at San Juan and possibly St. Kitts. Through its connections to commercial aviation, Airlink is coordinating long-haul flights from the US to San Juan and St. Kitts, where items will be stored in a warehouse prior to being distributed by small turboprop aircraft, to the affected islands. Rescue Global will gather and vet all needs assessments, as well as conduct reconnaissance to assess needs.
The need is expected to be great. While the known death toll of 61 people is relatively low for a weather event of this ferocity, this is expected to rise as communications and access are gradually restored in the affected regions. Furthermore, at least 17,000 people in need of shelter across the eastern Caribbean, 34,000 people displaced in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and 1.2 million people across the Caribbean have been adversely affected by damaged water infrastructure.
The Rescue Global and S.A.R.A.I.D team deploys with reconnaissance and information-gathering experts, pilots, medics, and Search and Rescue technicians. We will be flying our own King Air c90, which has short field takeoff and landing capability, ensuring the ability to access smaller and more remote islands, so that these are included in needs assessments and aid distribution.
David Jones, Commander of the Rescue Global response to Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean states, “I am frankly thrilled, challenged, and humbled by the consortium, and the effect that we collectively intend to make. We already have around 1000 tonnes of aid ready to go. We have pilots, aircraft, cargo handlers, government agencies, NGOs and local teams, all supporting us. To get this spun up, fully aligned with our risk management processes, within a week of deciding to deploy, is awesome. Crucially, we will ensure that the right aid gets to the right people, in the most efficient and risk averse way.”