Industry Trends

Partnering with ITDRC to Support Disaster Relief Efforts

By Bryan Watson | October 26, 2020

FortinetLife Perspectives

At Fortinet, our team is dedicated to supporting disaster relief efforts. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the west coast wildfires, our network of employees, alumni, partners, and customers have come together to offer what they can in terms of time, manpower, and resources. By working with organizations like ITDRC (Information Technology Disaster Resource Center), a nonprofit that provides free IT and connectivity solutions to communities affected by disasters, these individuals have played a critical role in rebuilding and reestablishing a sense of normalcy for many. 

Since 2017 when Hurricane Maria significantly affected Puerto Rico, Fortinet has worked closely with ITDRC to get communities impacted by hurricanes, fire, floods, and tornados back up and running. And this sense of dedication has carried on through 2020 as wildfires unfortunately continue to devastate the west coast. In addition to donating equipment to ensure connectivity, a team of Fortinet volunteers have dedicated their time and expertise to assist in any way we can. Additionally, through Fortinet’s Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives, we’ve also been able to donate equipment throughout the years as part of these disaster relief efforts.

Providing Expertise to Support Wildfire Relief Efforts 

In the case of a natural disaster, no time can be wasted before jumping into action. For our network of volunteers, the first step in any situation is to establish a visible presence with those on the ground, whether it be Cal OES or FEMA, to let them know what resources the on-the-ground team can offer. From there, these organizations will reach out to the appropriate channels to initiate a project dependent on the resources the volunteers are able to provide. Depending on the level of connectivity available at the site, the next steps can range from determining the sufficiency of the infrastructure to establishing secure network connections through the deployment of Fortinet-donated Secure SD-WAN solutions. 

As an Incident Commander of the recent CZU Lightning Complex fires, I leveraged my expertise as an Infosec/SOC Engineer at Fortinet to ensure that evacuees have what they need to stay connected and up to date. I assisted the network engineering team at the hosting site for an evacuation center that housed over 500 people and around 100 RVs. The amount of people at the evacuation center exacerbated the issue of poor WiFi connectivity in the area, prevented dislocated families and individuals from being able to access websites to file disaster claims or get in touch with family members. To address this issue, I acted as a liaison of network support and worked closely with the T-Mobile disaster response team to lay the groundwork for high-speed, secure WiFi connections. The level of skill and knowledge our Fortinet volunteer team offered was crucial in setting up Internet access that could meet the needs of a large group without faltering.

In addition to assisting with the recent CZU fires, our network of volunteers also offered their support during the 2018 Camp fires, the North Complex fire, and the Creek fire. We put in an enormous amount of work to keep everything running smoothly, from working with the Red Cross to coordinating efforts behind the scenes. 

“We're thrilled to have Fortinet's continued support through this very busy year,” said Chris Hillis co-founder of ITDRC. “2020 has had everyone on their toes when it comes to disaster relief, and the dedication of Fortinet's employees and customers has ensured we have the necessary resources available to help us execute our mission.”

Helping Rural and Tribal Communities Amid the Pandemic

Even amid the chaos caused by the wildfires on the west coast, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect communities everywhere. In response to this global public health crisis, ITDRC established projectConnect, a nationwide initiative to equip students and families living in rural and underserved communities with free WiFi hotspots. 

One such community that Fortinet has assisted through projectConnect is the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, which, like most, has been forced to lay the groundwork for distance learning for their school children. Besides helping create hotspots to address the connectivity issue, Fortinet volunteers also set up FortiCloud to ensure that these connections could be easily and securely managed. 

Recognizing the Value of Partners and Customers in Assisting Volunteer Efforts

While our employees have made a significant impact in their volunteer efforts, the role of our partners and customers cannot be understated. Several have offered their support alongside employees and alumni to maximize relief efforts, demonstrating a commitment to help the community. In addition to donating equipment and offering expertise, some have also provided physical locations for the team to set up when needed. One example of this is SEC Consult, a Fortinet partner that allowed volunteers to stage gear in their office, even though they had been evacuated due to the CZU fires.

This has not been the only instance of generosity within the Fortinet network: One customer, an independent marketer of fueling stations and convenience stores, also offered their locations for staging across the state of California. And to facilitate connectivity, another Fortinet customer, a financial institution, donated several FortiGate 90Ds to an Indian reservation. This sense of camaraderie has been nothing less than crucial to helping the public recover and rebuild after these disasters. 

Community Work 

Our network of volunteers recognizes the value of helping their communities, even when they have been impacted by a disaster themselves. By joining forces, our employees, partners, and customers have been able to accomplish great feats in helping others rebuild. Through Fortinet’s Corporate Social Responsibility work and our partnership with ITDRC, our team will continue to play an important role in providing relief efforts across the country, both in relation to natural disasters and public health crises.

At Fortinet, we build teams that are dedicated to openness, collaboration, and innovation.  Grow in your role  at a fast growing company.  

Find out how you can contribute to projectConnect by signing up online today at ITDRC

Read more on Fortinet’s Corporate Foundation and Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives and how Fortinet has donated technology to ITDRC’s projectConnect