What I Learned at a Disaster Simulation

What I learned about disaster relief and response at an ALAN/CSCMP/FEMA simulation
by Joel Anderson
ALAN Industry Liaison (Volunteer)

Last week, I attended at FEMA Region V headquarters a disaster simulation conducted by ALAN, sponsored by the Chicago Roundtable of CSCMP, and hosted by the FEMA Region V Recovery Division. Since this was my first ALAN event, I wanted to share with you what I learned about disaster events, and also ask you to enter in the comments section of this blog your own experiences.

The first fact I learned is how each disaster has its own unique path of destruction and each requires a different response, recovery and rebuild plan. A tornado is like a brutal path of bulldozers unleashed on a limited geography. The local businesses outside the path can stay fully operable and are able to provide immediate support and relief. Therefore, one mission critical goal of the disaster responders is to keep the roads open so the local businesses can serve the disaster victims.

In contrast, a hurricane will knock out a broad and extended path of homes, businesses, communication and infrastructure, creating a vastly different relief and recovery plan. Because the many local businesses are destroyed by a hurricane, the relief providers must bring different materials and support into the impacted area.

The second fact I learned was how each disaster requires cultural awareness of the community in danger. An example is shipping meals ready to eat (MRE’s) at $8 per set may be the wrong approach. If the local eateries can get back on their feet, you feed food acceptable to the community and at a lesser cost. Following Hurricane Gustav (2008), local restaurants in Louisiana partnered with the state government and provided culturally appropriate meals at a cost of $6.78 per, saving taxpayers approximately $1.5 million. (http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/blog/post/public-private-collaboration-six-years-after-hurricane-katrina/31728) (http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/for-disaster-management-louisiana-looks-to-business-09012011.html)

I also learned that as much as 3/4’s of disaster relief supplies sent by people of goodwill cannot be used and are not needed by the struck community. Forget clothing, water, and food drives by charities. The unneeded supplies (called the 2nd disaster, or unofficially, the CNN effect) fill up warehouses and clog supply lines. These items must be sorted, stored, and eventually distributed or disposed. For the “good” supplies – those that can’t be sourced locally, what is needed is warehousing and transportation. Clogged interstates and warehouses hamper the real needs of the community. (http://alanaid.org/monetary-donations-make-supply-chain-sense/)

I gained a deep appreciation of how ALAN applies the gained knowledge to match transportation resources, the correct supplies and the correct equipment to people in need.

I ask our readers to use the comments section to add in your own experiences with disasters, disaster relief and disaster recovery.

Donate now to support our response activities.
Give Now