Municipal Crisis Preparation and Response

Municipal Crisis Preparation and Response

Migration Crisis in Massachusetts

The Challenge

Massachusetts has been experiencing an unprecedented influx of migrants, with over 7,500 newcomer families staying in shelters, motels, and hotels in 100 communities across the state as of December 2023. The state required a collaboration and coordination tool to respond to the growing needs of the diverse migrant population arriving in the state, and to better support the businesses hosting these families.

The Outcome

(Ongoing) In response to the migration crisis, Massachusetts incorporated a digital strategy into its activities, creating the Massachusetts Emergency Assistance for New Arrivals issue area on the global RespondLocal platform powered by NeedsList. The platform facilitates a dynamic and responsive environment where government agencies and community organizations can instantly share information about needs and resources being offered, thus improving the state's ability to meet the real-time needs of the affected migrant population.

NeedsList allows the state to track emerging requirements and committed resources in real-time, and supports community organizations in matching their needs and efficiently distributing support, significantly enhancing the state's crisis response capabilities. The real-time update capability supports organizations, allowing them to respond more quickly to emerging needs in shelters, avoiding duplication of efforts and ensuring that resources are directed where they are most needed. This not only improves response efficiency but also maximizes the impact of available resources.

NeedsList’s features and customer support made it possible for Massachusetts to respond quickly, providing immediate assistance in managing and coordinating a rapidly evolving situation. The platform's real-time data processing capabilities are crucial for efficiently visualising and meeting urgent needs.

Disaster Preparedness in North Carolina

The Challenge

With a history of hurricanes and other severe weather events, and as part of its disaster preparedness strategy, North Carolina wanted to strengthen its support of the state’s volunteer and emergency responder networks. Working with North Carolina Voluntary Organisations Active in Disaster (NCVOAD), the state is developing a comprehensive strategy for proactive disaster prevention and preparedness, including effective resource management.

The Outcome

NCVOAD has adopted a distributed digital strategy, utilising a white-label enterprise version of NeedsList to foster a more proactive approach to disaster prevention. This strategy focuses on empowering communities, providing them with the necessary tools to anticipate and prepare for potential disasters, allowing them to publish their basic preparedness needs and enabling other organizations to post their offers to increase resilience and prepare for crises.

North Carolina is using NeedsList proactively, and focusing on disaster prevention and preparedness. Here, the value of the platform lies in its ability to anticipate needs, facilitate resource planning, and foster community engagement before a crisis occurs. It was tested during a recent tornado that affected a county not usually hit by severe weather events, and the state was able to quickly assist in the relocation of mobile homes thanks to the preexisting offers of heavy equipment services on its platform.

Shared Benefits and Unique Challenges

Massachusetts and North Carolina illustrate the adaptability and versatility of NeedsList in handling diverse scenarios, from emergency response to long-term disaster resilience planning.

Both scenarios share common benefits from the implementation of the NeedsList platform, such as greater visibility for real-time needs, effective resource distribution, and stronger community engagement. These shared advantages show the platform's capacity to improve organisational and operational efficiencies, regardless of the context. However, each scenario also presents unique challenges. In Massachusetts, the platform handles a wide range of immediate humanitarian needs such as basic hygiene items, Non-Food Items/Core Relief Items, food and medicine in a high-pressure, fast-changing environment of an acute crisis, requiring rapid adaptability and scalability, along with swift support. For North Carolina VOAD, the challenge was different. The platform needed to facilitate long-term planning and foster preparation and prevention, including needs such as tarps, construction bags and septic repairs, requiring continuous efforts to understand the potential environmental challenges that could impact communities. 

These two cases show that NeedsList can be an essential tool for improving the communication of needs and offers, enhancing resource distribution, and effectively engaging communities. Its ability to address diverse needs, from immediate crisis response in Massachusetts to proactive disaster prevention in North Carolina, demonstrates its usefulness in various humanitarian contexts. This flexibility is vital for organisations operating in dynamic and often unpredictable environments. Based on these two cases, and other implementations such as Colombia, Uganda, Ukraine and Peru, digital platforms like NeedsList can be pivotal in transforming the approach to crisis management and disaster preparedness globally.

Our work with both responses is ongoing, and we continue in 2024 focusing on providing better preparation for disasters and crises and also focusing on responding to the urgent basic needs of vulnerable communities.