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In the Wake of Natural Disasters, Logistics Proves Paramount


Friday September 15, 2017

The recent devastation in North America due to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and an 8.2 magnitude earthquake in southern Mexico has created extreme logistical challenges as relief efforts continue and cleanup begins.

DoD News reports that the US Department of Defense (DOD) mobilized naval, air and ground assets to respond to urgent needs in Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the wake of Hurricane Irma. In addition, the DOD is providing humanitarian assistance in the form of water, sanitation, logistics support, movement of disaster relief personnel, and movement of humanitarian commodities throughout the hardest-hit Caribbean islands in response to U.S. State Department requests.

Hurricane Irma destroyed property, homes and infrastructure as it moved, in some places unleashing 185 mph winds. Damage and devastation started in the Caribbean islands, where Barbuda and St. Martin Prime Minister Gaston Browne estimated that Barbuda was at least 90 percent destroyed.

Restoring the power grid has become an urgent necessity in all affected areas. Millions of people across Florida, Georgia and South Carolina still are without power. The New York Times reports that the priority for restoring power goes to vital facilities such as hospitals, firehouses, police stations and shelters, and then it goes to major commercial streets.

In Texas, residents still are recovering from the effects of Hurricane Harvey, which brought with it record-setting rainfall and flooding. Ruined possessions line neighborhood streets. “All that sodden drywall, flooring, furniture, clothing and toys adds up to an estimated 8 million cubic yards in Houston alone, enough to fill up the Texans stadium two times over,” CBS News reports.

And, last week in Mexico, an earthquake claimed the lives of at least 100 people, and houses, roads and hospitals have crumbled to rocks and dust. NPR featured an interview with Eduardo Mendoza, who manages the aid organization Direct Relief Mexico. His group works to provide medical assistance to groups providing health services. “With more rain, it will complicate the logistics and the mobilization of resources throughout the country through mudslides and heavy rain,” Mendoza said. 


Amid these natural disasters, the need for efficient logistics proves vital. In her recent update, Kathy Fulton, executive director of the American Logistics Aid Network (ALAN), reports that the situation in Florida is improving, with the number of people in shelters decreasing rapidly, power coming back online, fuel getting delivered, and businesspeople going back to work. ALAN was founded by professionals and trade associations following Hurricane Katrina and today is supported by hundreds of supply chain businesses poised to help when natural disasters occur. Please visit the organization’s web portal, which lists up-to-date supply chain-related needs from affected communities. Individuals and businesses also can donate to support ALAN and its mission at

“We recognize there are areas in Florida, Texas and the Caribbean with significant amounts of damage where recovery will be protracted,” Fulton writes. “ALAN remains committed to supporting non-profit logistics needs now and for the months and years to come.”

Learn more about ALAN at APICS 2017 — which will take place October 15-17 in San Antonio — where ALAN representatives will be in the Expo Hall. 
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