After Superstorm Sandy hit the Northeast U.S. in October of 2012, the American Logistics Aid Network (ALAN) responded with services to aid the more than 100 million people affected. Today, the organization is assessing lessons learned so it can improve emergency management processes.
For example, because New York’s visiting nurses were not classified as emergency responders, they could not get priority at the gas pump, and many struggled to get to their patients. Another challenge developed as relief donations flooded in, overwhelming disaster response teams and making it difficult for them to deliver priority items.
In the wake of a future crisis, a rapid, coordinated effort to reestablish the flow of supplies and services would help prevent continued suffering and long-term economic harm, ALAN concluded. This kind of work entails partnerships and cooperative effort. “No one can predict when or where the next emergency will occur,” said ALAN President Jock Menzies. “But we can reduce the impact of disasters through planning, working cooperatively and through bolstering communities’ ability to respond and recover.”
In the aftermath of Sandy, ALAN worked with supply chain industry partners and organizations such as members of the Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOADs) and state and federal emergency management agencies. This helped them identify sources for a variety of relief items, including pumps for removing floodwaters, replacement medical equipment, transportation support, distribution facilities and meals for a retirement home.
Fuel shortages were an important issue in the wake of Sandy, brought on by ship terminal damage, diminished truck capacity and highway access, and lack of electricity at gas stations. ALAN worked with the American Automobile Association (AAA) and OPISNet, a fuel price reporting network, to generate and disseminate reports showing which stations were pumping fuel. This information proved valuable to state and federal emergency management agencies as well as nonprofits. With funding from three of its association partners, ALAN sent a graduate student from MIT’s Center for Transportation and Logistics to work with the New York City Office of Emergency Management and nonprofit relief agencies. ALAN has designated additional reserves for logistics support of continuing recovery operations.
Director of Operations Kathy Fulton is providing input as FEMA develops a new automated tool for managing donations on a national scale. In addition, ALAN is working to promote greater access to information that could keep supply chains operating during a disaster, such as road conditions, curfews, power supplies, and communications. And ALAN is helping VOADs to streamline their operations by connecting them with business-sector experts in operational efficiency.