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Health & Wellness
Disaster Relief

From Shaun Mickus


Last week, the U.S. was thrown once again into emergency response mode, as wildfires raged in California. Like many individuals, organizations and companies, Johnson & Johnson tried to do its part to help.

While we all see the result of these efforts on TV or read about them in newspaper reports, it struck me that many people don’t know all that goes into organizing a response to these disasters.

I routinely work with the company’s corporate contributions team, and I’m always amazed by how complex these efforts can be. Unfortunately, we live in a world where disasters of all kinds are far more routine than any of us would like. But each time a disaster strikes, our contributions team springs into action to immediately assess the acute needs of victims and their families.

Since each disaster is unique, the response to any given situation varies. The one thing that’s always the same, though, is how quickly we try to respond. Around-the-clock phone calls and emails with relief organizations we partner with as well as other Johnson & Johnson employees during and immediately after any disaster strikes are a routine occurrence. These discussions help the team understand the extent of the disaster, the needs of the people affected, and the best way we can help to ensure that the right products and resources get to the victims quickly to save and improve as many lives as possible.

Johnson & Johnson has responded to major disasters all over the world for the past 100 years, and has developed a global network of disaster relief partners at the ready to deploy pre-placed disaster relief modules that include products, medicines and other relief supplies. With operations throughout the world, these disasters sometimes happen near to where Johnson & Johnson has operations which gives us a chance to get quick assessments on the disaster’s wrath so that we can respond accordingly. For instance, following a devastating earthquake in Pakistan a few years ago, the J&J colleagues in the area communicated the situation in the aftermath, that many victims suffered broken bones and other serious injuries. In response, we arranged to have thousands of surgical devices - pins, screws, sutures, and implants - shipped from the U.S. within hours to meet acute needs

In the case of the California wildfires, Johnson & Johnson worked with one of its partners, Direct Relief International, to distribute 15 pallets of Johnson & Johnson products to 50 community health centers and shelters in the area. The company also provided operational funding to DRI and America’s Second Harvest to assist with on-the-ground activities. At the same time, a message went out to employees, asking that if they wished to contribute to DRI or America’s Second Harvest, the company would match their donations two-for-one.

The team is now monitoring the situation in California to see if there is anything else to be done.

As I write this, the contributions team is at it once again. Tropical Storm Noel’s path of destruction in the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean locales this week means that the team is looking into what it may do to help.