Dimension Data > Enabling multinational business > Planning for and mitigating natural disasters through supply chain management

Planning for and mitigating natural disasters through supply chain management


Lesley-Anne Dos Santos | International Business Marketing Manager | Dimension Data

In the aftermath of a natural disaster, such as a hurricane or typhoon, we are easily humbled by the power of these natural phenomena. During these catastrophic events, buildings and infrastructure are often severely damaged and all major routes in and out of affected areas become inaccessible.  Coastal ports are closed, flights are cancelled, and often, a widespread transportation shutdown takes place.


The effects of natural disasters can be long-lasting. Hurricane Katrina, which flooded 80 percent of New Orleans in 2005, killed hundreds of people and damaged an estimated US $81 billion worth of property, devastating the Gulf Coast of the United States. Less than a week ago, residents of low-lying areas of coastal Louisiana were being evacuated with a 300-mile hurricane warning stretching the Gulf Coast across four states. This time, Hurricane Isaac was headed their way.

Extreme, high-damaging disasters such as these create physical and social effects which not only impact people and their homes but can also cripple an economy.  Cities and countries rely on their industries for income, be it business, transportation or tourism. Thriving industries rely heavily on infrastructure and a natural disaster can have an adverse effect, especially in those areas which depend greatly on access to their ports. New Orleans, for example, relies heavily on transportation to support its public and entertainment sectors, all of which are hit hard when natural disasters occur. The only industry which thrives from a disaster is construction, since buildings and roads need to be repaired and rebuilt.

Whether we are talking about a country or an organisation, planning for and mitigating adverse effects during major emergency situations is critical for economic prosperity. For example, food, medicine, fuel, retail, banking and manufacturing – just to name a few – are all impacted when transportation comes to a halt. This is where disaster recovery strategies come into play. All countries and organisations must continue to develop contingency plans, including the use of new technology and advanced techniques. The right supply chain service provider should have access to disaster monitoring networks and systems, sensor networks and seismic motion monitoring, telecommunication services including mobile base stations and mobile transceiver stations, and automated gas shut-off valves .

Be it a natural disaster or day to day business, logistics is all about delivering a product on time to a target destination, no matter what the situation. This is where supply chain management and communities come into play. These industry professionals plan and mitigate for all possible situations, based on your geography, climate and specific political and customs nuances.

I am truly saddened by the news that many people in the US have once again been affected by another natural disaster, so soon after Hurricane Katrina.  While it is easy to talk about planning and mitigating through supply chain management, in these situations, real lives are affected and unfortunately, memories will never fade.