By: Nebil Buyurgan
Since the beginning of 2017, it was evident that this year would be a bad year for weather and climate catastrophes across the country. Flooding in California, Missouri and Arkansas; hailstorms in Colorado and Minnesota; and a spring freeze across South Carolina and Georgia showed that we should always be alert and prepared for natural disasters. Then Hurricane Harvey and Irma reminded us how vulnerable we are to these and similar events, even if they are somewhat predictable.
Organizing and managing relief operations is crucially important during the aftermath of a disaster, to minimize its impacts. Procuring relief supplies after a disaster is a complex operation that poses “what type, how much, when, from where, and how” questions. From a logistics perspective, disaster relief logistics vary significantly from commercial logistics. First, the main objective of commercial logistics is to maximize profit as needed, but disaster relief logistics aim to save lives and help beneficiaries. A lot of “just-in-case” supply transportation occurs after a disaster. Shareholders, customers and suppliers are involved in commercial logistics. However, in disaster relief donors, governments, military, NGOs, beneficiaries, United Nations and other stakeholders must contend with high employee turnover (due to reliance on voluntary staff) and a harsh physical and psychological environment. Meeting donor expectations is another major concern related to disaster relief logistics.
We will never be 100 percent prepared for natural disasters; but, we can respond to the aftermath by distributing food, medical supplies and other necessities of life to affected populations whose lives depend on the speed of logistics activities. To ensure the successful and efficient provision of disaster relief operations we should work together, share ideas and improve practices.
Nebil Buyurgan, Ph.D. is an associate professor and the director of the Project Management Graduate Program in the College of Business at Missouri State University. His specialty includes supply chain management and logistics operations. NebilBuyurgan@MissouriState.edu.
This article appeared in the October 7, ,2017 edition of the News-Leader and can be accessed online here.