How the Fuel Relief Fund is Providing Emergency Fuel to Devastated Communities
As of Monday, September 25th, 2017, days after Hurricane Maria ripped across the Caribbean Island of Puerto Rico, there was still no power, electricity or cell service, leaving island inhabitants entirely off the grid in what officials described as “apocalyptic” conditions. Lack of electricity and power in the wake of a natural disaster such as a hurricane, earthquake, tsunami or devastating flood can mean the difference between life and death for survivors who work to stabilize their communities and establish basic human needs such as clean water, sanitation, light, heat, refrigeration of food and medicine, and vital life-saving equipment such as oxygen machines and incubators. Without fuel, core emergency response systems like police, paramedics and fire shut down, and the efforts of non-governmental and governmental agencies such as the Red Cross, the UN, UNICEF, Feed the Children and FIMA are grounded due to fuel interruption.
The Origins of the Fuel Relief Fund
Based in Riverside, CA, the Fuel Relief Fund began with Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and officially became a 501c3 after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti as a way to support communities and relief agencies with immediate emergency fuel needs following a major disaster. From the FRF website, “When disaster strikes, Fuel Relief Fund is first on the ground with fuel for the humanitarian response and the people affected by the disaster.”
What They Do
Following a catastrophic event, Fuel Relief Fund has boots, trucks and resources on the ground with rapid emergency fuel response to support the re-stabilization of a community. They remain at a location until the local fuel structure is operational and distribute fuel on a regular basis – the most critical fuel needs such as hospitals, police, fire and aid workers receiving top priority. Says FRF Chairman of the Board, Ted Honchurik, “Distribution of emergency fuel is critical to all phases of the humanitarian response, including search and rescue, first responders, as well as to maintain daily operations for hospitals, clinics, orphanages, schools and other entities within an affected community.”
Immediate Deployment to the Eye of the Disaster
With the direct hit of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, the board approved an immediate emergency fuel response and was on the ground within days. Following the devastation of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Irma in Florida and now Maria in Puerto Rico, support from outside partners is more critical than ever to counter fuel interruption in the world’s most vulnerable areas. Response within the United States is for the most part fairly rapid based on location and availability of viable resources and assets, but over the years the Fuel Relief Fund has extended beyond US borders to respond to such natural disasters as the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the 2013 typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines and the 2015 earthquake in Nepal.
“Initially,” says Honchurik, “when we go into these disaster zones, the first day we get there we’re giving away small amounts of fuel – 5 gallons for the first 24 hours to get everyone up and running with their generators and then the next day we fill up vehicles plus 2, 5-gallon container so that families have the ability to find food, water, medicine and to continue fueling their generators. We go strait to the eye of the hurricane or the disaster within 24 to 72 hours so that fire, ambulance, police, hospitals and water treatment plants can do their job. We go to the local first responders first so that they can serve immediately. Puerto Rico, for example is a situation where we will fly in, get connected to local fuel suppliers and companies, buy the fuel from them, get fuel trucks and employees to support and then give it all away for free to the community. We will go town to town to town all day long visiting the worst hit areas. Without power for days or even months, refrigeration is down, food is spoiled and there’s no ice, so all that you can eat is coming from a can or a bag.”
A few hundred gallons of fuel can provide electricity to upwards of 100,000 people. 300 gallons of fuel can power a water treatment plant providing clean, drinkable water to thousands. As the father of 2 daughters, Honchurik was especially touched when a doctor in Haiti praised the Fuel Relief Fund team for powering a central generator and light in a camp of thousands of people by saying, “You have no idea how many rapes you prevented tonight.”
According to the Fuel Relief Fund website, “More than ever, disaster relief is a global priority. The number, scale, and severity of natural disasters and climate-related events have risen sharply in the past 30 years – with nearly four times as many disasters happening now than in 1980.” FRF is the only existing non-profit organization dedicated entirely to deploying fuel resources to areas in crisis. They exist to support critical operations such as police forces, fire departments and hospitals so that they can continue their presence in devastated areas as well as humanitarian aid organizations providing services to hundreds and thousands of people in need. Says Honchurik, “ I don’t know of another organization out there where for every dollar we raise, we give it away for free in the form of fuel, 100%. We are the only one filling this niche.”
The Importance of Education
Ted’s wife, Lidewij Honchurik, also a FRF board member highlighted the importance of expanding awareness around fuel services in a disaster situation. “A lot of people donate to the Red Cross for water, food, shelter and medicine, but none of those operations can function in an environment without fuel. Recently in Florida with Hurricane Irma, people were down to their last few gallons of gasoline, siphoning fuel from vehicles. FRF was able to come in and offer support and we immediately let first responders know that we were there. There should be no reason that people die because of lack of fuel. That’s why we became involved with the UN, because organizations like UNICEF and Feed the Children were all parked until we were able to deliver fuel to them.” Says Lidewij, “It’s a matter of educating people who don’t realize the impact of fuel, and let’s be honest, fuel is not sexy. Nobody thinks of it as #1 in a disaster situation, but fuel refrigerates medicine. It allows operating equipment to work, lights for safety and all of the things people need to have fresh water. A generator is required to keep all of that going, so with fuel you are assisting in so many ways. Fuel might not be your first immediate thought in a disaster situation, but it is a critical aspect of saving lives.”
Learn More About the Fuel Relief Fund
To learn more about Fuel Relief Fund and to become a partner in their efforts to bring life-saving fuel resources to devastated areas, visit their website at FuelReliefFund.org, their crowdfunding site at www.globalgiving.com and follow them on Facebook. SCL is proud to be a sponsor of the Fuel Relief Fund, providing necessary fuel resources to disaster situations that save lives and support communities as they rebuild infrastructure.
Contact an SCL Consultant today
In a wide range of industrial sectors, if there’s metal touching metal, oil is involved. At SCL, we’re here to protect and optimize the machines that keep our country moving and we pride ourselves on providing superior logistics and solutions, extensive product and industry knowledge and total performance satisfaction for our customers. As a precautionary step we highly encourage our team members, partners and community to asses their emergency disaster protocols and procedures in the event of a natural disaster. For more information on how to develop a contingency plan related to energy solutions in the event of a natural disaster, contact an SCL consultant today.