Making a Difference with Logistics

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
~ Anne Frank

Earthquakes, floods, tornados . . . it seems like there’s a new disaster in the news every day. Wouldn’t it be rewarding to be a part of the solution? One humanitarian relief organization is giving our industry a chance to do just that. Read on to learn more.

The Need for Humanitarian Logistics

In disaster relief, logistics is often the biggest hurdle.

As much as 80 percent of disaster relief expenditures go toward transporting, warehousing, and distributing goods and services to affected communities. The logistics industry offers expertise, goods, services, and networks that can be mobilized to meet those needs.

For nearly a decade, the American Logistics Aid Network (ALAN) has supported disaster recovery by engaging supply-chain organizations to address the needs of relief organizations, communities and people.

How ALAN Works

ALAN serves as facilitator/coordinator for non-profits needing logistics services and taps its network of supply-chain businesses for logistics skills and resources necessary for disaster response. With experts in transportation, warehousing, cold storage, and distribution, they help locate and move goods from suppliers to communities in need rapidly and efficiently. ALAN’s strategy for responding to emergencies increases the capacity of relief agencies, saves money, and eliminates duplication of effort and waste by matching expressed needs with potential providers.

ALAN works in tandem with National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOADs) such as the American Red Cross, Feeding America and the Salvation Army as well as state and federal emergency agencies, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“It’s about relationships,” says ALAN director Kathy Fulton. “We sit down with associations and have a cup of coffee. We want to know who they are and what they do.”

In times of crisis, those connections pay off. For example, when residents of Flint, Michigan needed clean drinking water during the recent water crisis, Feed the Children secured a major donation of bottled water. They turned to ALAN to arrange transportation because the two organizations had built a relationship over the years.

Expanding Scope

ALAN’s reach now extends beyond emergent disaster response needs to general crises and humanitarian response such as Ebola, the refugee crisis, and the Zika virus.

While the organization has historically focused on humanitarian relief in the U.S., they have also expanded to address needs internationally. “With the global nature of supply chain, our association partners often have members around the globe who want to help,” explains Fulton. “Our US based non-profit partners are often responding and trust our networks to help them both in the US and abroad.”

ALAN has also expanded the types of donors that the organization works with. New association partners like the International Association of Movers (IAM), the Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA), and the Transportation Marketing & Sales Association (TMSA) bring different strengths and focus. The 3PL community is still ALAN’s strongest partner due to the variety of services and capabilities.

Doing the Right Thing

Supply chain businesses want to help in disaster situations simply because supporting those in need is the right thing to do. ALAN provides the opportunity to support disaster relief in ways that highlight their strengths and engage their business interests.

“We’re enabling logistics companies to use their skills for good,” Fulton says.

Today, ALAN is comprised of hundreds of supply-chain businesses who stand poised to respond in the event of disasters.

Saddle Creek embraced the opportunity to support ALAN early on. In 2010, the company donated the time and talent of Kathy Fulton, one of its top IT experts who later moved to ALAN full-time and now heads the organization.

Saddle Creek has continued to support the organization financially and with in-kind donations, recently moving $1.5 million worth of medicine to help respond to the needs of Ecuador earthquake survivors (see photo above).

“Our corporate culture places significant emphasis on giving back to the community, so the partnership is a natural fit,” says company CEO Cliff Otto.

Attracting Talent

In addition to the philanthropic reasons to be involved, involvement with a humanitarian organization like ALAN can have a surprising side effect. It helps companies to attract talent – particularly millenials, Fulton says.

“In speaking at universities around the country, I’ve learned that our efforts really resonate with students,” she explains. “They’re socially conscious and want to participate in life-sustaining activities. ALAN bridges the gap, turning an industry that doesn’t look very exciting into one that is at the core of saving lives.”

Get Involved

Interested in getting involved with ALAN? Choose from one of the following opportunities:

• Companies with assets/resources can make in-kind donations
• Individuals can volunteer their unique skills
• Monetary donations are always welcome

To learn more or donate, visit www.alanaid.org.

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