Posted by: Kathy Fulton, Director of Operations, American Logistics Aid Network
What’s the first thing you think of when someone says “hurricane supplies”? Maybe it is water, or batteries, or first aid supplies - all standard items in preparedness kits. What happened to those items before you purchased them? Someone had to buy the components, ship them, assemble the product, pack it, store it, ship it, store it again, market it, and finally, sell it to you. The companies providing those services, and you, the end consumer, are all part of a supply chain.
Now think about the things we use in disaster response – sandbags to stop rising floodwaters, food and water distributed in mass care operations, life-saving medicines used by first responders, even toys and games used by care-givers at shelters to give children a safe, low-stress environment. Imagine yourself as a disaster survivor needing those items, and the importance of resources to provide supply chain activities in emergency response hits home in a hurry. In fact, it is the success or failure of supply chains – the availability of life saving resources - that determines the magnitude of a disaster.
It is said that “information has to be accessible to be actionable”. In disaster response, the product has to be where it is needed to be useful. In supply chain management, we talk about the “seven rights” - the right product has to be delivered to the right customer, at the right time, at the right location, in the right condition, in the right quantities, at the right price. In a post-disaster scenario, a failure in any of those “rights” means that survivors don’t get the products and services they need, and the party responsible for product the products gets a black eye.
To ensure the “rights” are all met, we must ensure resiliency in both our commercial and disaster response supply chains. Yes, we need to pre-position products, but we also need to pre-position relationships that can be called upon when primary sources are inaccessible. We have to eschew rigid hierarchical structures and look for innovative, but secure, solutions. Like sharing for-profit private sector delivery networks, or using affinity groups to identify alternate sources. Creative answers are out there; we just have to ask the “whole community” to help us find and implement them.
At the American Logistics Aid Network, we harness the know-how and resources of the supply chain industry to bring relief to disaster survivors. ALAN connects relief organizations and emergency agencies responding to disasters with donations of transportation services, staging areas, warehouse storage, expert advice, and other vital resources. Visit www.ALANAid.org to learn more about our organization.