In the wake of a major disaster, financial support is a common response from corporate citizens — and the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti proved no exception. However, a company of GE's size and breadth can offer more than money to help an affected community recover. Our response to Haiti's plight — which has ranged from philanthropy to volunteerism and product donation — offers an instructive example of GE's unique disaster recovery process at work.
GE's approach begins by partnering with disaster response and readiness teams. In the case of Haiti, news coverage and contact with the International Red Cross revealed significant need, both on a human and infrastructure scale. So in the disaster's aftermath, GE dedicated over $5.5 million to relief efforts, including employee donations, a 100 percent match from GE Foundation, and additional commitments to the Red Cross and UNICEF. (This places GE among the top corporate donors to relief efforts in Haiti, according to CNN.)
Providing local support through volunteers is the next important step in our process. In some instances, GE employees are on site to assist immediately. Such was the case with Mike Kammermeier, a customer education manager for GE Healthcare who was in Haiti when the earthquake struck. While his experience began as a trip to train local doctors on laptop ultrasound equipment, it quickly became a mission to aid victims and help Haitians establish communication with their families.
Product donation is another significant part of our approach. The breadth of GE's businesses gives the company an unmatched capacity to support both immediate relief and long-term recovery. In Haiti's case, GE shipped 10 solar-powered Sunspring water purification units, each of which has the capacity to provide safe water for up to 10,000 people per day. At present in Haiti, Sunspring units are generating over 40,000 gallons of purified water daily — and while these units were deployed within hours of arrival to address immediate needs, they are built to remain operational for years.
Donated products from GE Sensing & Inspection Technologies aided in another critical area: search and rescue efforts. Video borescopes, including the XL PRO and XL Go, are designed to snake into hard-to-reach areas — an urgent need given the extensive architectural damage caused by the earthquake.
Healthcare equipment, like the Venue 40 miniature ultrasound device used by Mike Kammermeier and his team, has been another component in our product contribution. Patient monitors, anesthesia units and mobile X-ray devices were all configured by GE Healthcare teams immediately after the earthquake, and have since been shipped to Partners in Health for deployment on the ground.
Clearly, recovering from a disaster of this scope will require ongoing assistance from companies, governments and individuals worldwide. From funds to products to people, global corporations are equipped to play a unique role from the beginning. According to Nan Buzard, the senior director of international response and programs at the American Red Cross, a response process must be part of a company's approach to citizenship.
“One of the biggest challenges is applying immense goodwill in the immediate aftermath of a disaster,” she says. “Details regarding corporate interests and capabilities must be worked out ahead of time, or opportunities will be lost in a high-paced response.”
Every disaster presents its own distinct challenges, and each corporate citizen reacts in its own way. If GE's work in Haiti is any indication, however, victims of even the most severe events can benefit from a corporation's thoughtful process — and the generosity of its people.