On January 12, 2012, a magnitude 6.7 earthquake struck the small island nation of Haiti, killing over 300,000 people and leaving countless more injured or trapped. As the incident unfolded, search and rescue teams began flying in from every corner of the world and the U.S. Military deployed a Marine Expeditionary Unit and the Army 82nd Airborne to aid in the relief effort. Despite all of this initial aid, helping survivors receive access to medical care and emergency supplies remained an enormous challenge. After being in contact with personnel on the ground, founder Adam Marlatt inserted into the Dominican Republic and crossed over the border into Haiti by land. He, along with several other responders, facilitated emergency patient transport, critical supply delivery, and large scale food drops. From that moment, Global Disaster Immediate Response Team (DIRT) was born.
Patient transport was a gigantic challenge after the earthquake in Port-au-Prince, the nation’s capital. Congested roadways compounded by debris in the streets cut off access to parts of the city, and the lack of pre-existing Emergency Medical Services (EMS) made patient movement nearly impossible. The team quickly identified routes that were still open as well as the locations of pre-existing medical facilities and clinics that were popping up due to international medical teams flooding the area to provide assistance. Utilizing a bread truck as a mass casualty ambulance, the team quickly became the go-to people for patient movement. The truck held 14 patients at a time and would transport from overloaded clinics to hospitals that could provide aid for the injuries the patient presented. In the immediate phase of the disaster, the team moved thousands of patients to dozens of facilities and facilitated the movement of patients to the USS Comfort hospital ship.
As the recovery effort continued, supplies ran short as aid groups struggled to get items off the airport tarmac and out of the shipping port. Global DIRT continued operations during this time and began deploying an all-volunteer crew of prior service military personnel and subject matter experts. After identifying the locations of most facilities offering free medical care, the team began moving excess supplies from facilities to others that had a critical need. The team also identified local supply access to gasoline, jet fuel, IV medications, and oxygen, facilitating the emergency resupply of hospitals as well as the air medical evacuation of critical patients.
The team was also alerted to unsolicited shipping container donations located at the port that USAID was not able to move. The team developed a direct distribution model and moved 1.5 million pounds of food, water, medicine, and clothing to schools and orphanages across Haiti in one day with hundreds of smaller vehicles donated by local NGOs. The model was then implemented to move 10 million pounds of humanitarian assistance meals-ready-to-eat (MREs) by the United Nations World Food Program. Since deploying to Haiti in January 2010, Global DIRT has moved over 200 shipments of critical supplies, provided emergency transport to thousands of survivors, and helped countless more during hospital rotations and mobile clinics.
Global DIRT’s mission in Haiti is ongoing to improve disaster response and build critical infrastructure to better handle future disasters.