Strengthening Post-Hurricane Supply Chain Resilience
Observations from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria
By National Academies Research
March 25, 2021
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) asked the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Committee on Building Adaptable and Resilient Supply Chains After Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria to analyze the function of supply chain networks in four primary areas affected by the 2017 storms in South Texas (Hurricane Harvey), South Florida (Hurricane Irma), and Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (Hurricanes Irma and Maria). Specifically, the committee was asked to identify key lessons from these events related to supply and distribution networks and to offer recommendations for improving the conveyance and distribution of essential supplies and commodities during disaster response and recovery operations—focused on supply chains for food, fuel, water, and pharmaceutical and medical supplies. This article highlights parts of the report that focus directly on transportation issues in the four localities previously mentioned.
Supply chains facilitate the timely flow of materials and products from suppliers to manufacturers to distributors (wholesalers) to distribution channels (e.g., retailers, clinics and hospitals, and non-governmental organizations) and, finally, to end-users. They do this by transmitting demand information upstream—and other related information downstream—to guide production, transportation, and distribution decisions.
Disruptions to a supply chain can result from several forces, including demand shifts (e.g., spikes in demand for fuel and bottled water), capacity reductions (e.g., when a factory or retail store cannot operate due to damage or power outages), and communication disruptions (e.g., loss of cell phone, Internet, or point-of-sale systems). The resilience of a supply chain depends on how its bottlenecks and lead times are affected by such disruptions and what capabilities exist for swift restoration after a disruption. The objective of supply chain resilience is to minimize the impact of such disruptions on the affected population.
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