Typhoon Haiyan: Employing Logistics Functions in Natural Disasters

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November 13, 2013

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The world remains stunned and sympathetic at the destruction wrought by typhoon Haiyan, which recently devastated Philippine islands, hitting Tacloban the hardest and leaving countless dead or injured, with limited access to food, clean water or power sources. The typhoon, which is said to be headed to Vietnam, has created a nightmare situation requiring careful planning and trained personnel to resolve; one that hinges on logistics as a function for its resolution.

Logistics as a function will be called into play where transportation of people as related to the typhoon is necessary. Evacuation efforts were needed in areas affected by the typhoon, with residents needing to be removed either from the path of the storm or from places destroyed in its wake.

Photo Credit: cbc.ca

Photo Credit: cbc.ca

Transportation considerations here include providing special conditions for the sick or injured, selecting the most time and cost efficient mode of transport, as well as ensuring the safety of rescue personnel in relation to exposure to diseases or potentially being caught in the typhoon.

Similarly, logistics has been employed in searching for survivors washed out to see, with courses of rescue needing to be plotted, mode of rescue to be chosen, whether aerial survey or sea faring vessels, and arrangements made to ensure survivors are transported to safety with no further damage to them.

Logistics will also factor when organizing how to get volunteer workers and rescue personnel to the sites of destruction to help in taking care of survivors among other services required. This is also true of transporting security forces to quell looting and general lawlessness being reported in areas hit by Haiyan, as people rob shops in an attempt to find food and other essential items for their own survival.

More important will be the role of logistics in getting food and other aid supplies to the survivors still trapped. Supply chain management knowledge can be applied to ensure that food and medical supplies travel under the proper conditions, in pre-planned routes to ensure they get to those in need while still viable.

In a country such as the Philippines, this will be especially difficult since the skeletal infrastructure that existed before Haiyan has effectively been wiped out, leaving barely their roads, leveled airports and a general logistical nightmare, requiring creativity on the side of supply chain managers tasked with these deliveries.

The survivors themselves present a unique, if heartbreaking, hindrance to the delivery process. An attempt at delivering food relief over the weekend was thwarted when the Red Cross convoy stopped at a collapsed bridge and was mobbed by starving survivors.

Chairman of the Philippines Red Cross, Richard Gordon, made a statement explaining that the convoy had to turn around, expressing that whatever little food aid was being delivered to Talcoban would not reach all survivors in need as it was being commandeered before gaining entry into the area.

Logistics strategizing will also be necessary in the eventual cleanup efforts, where clearing debris is concerned. The logistics function will be needed in determining how to transport the scattered parts of destroyed housing, based on weight, flammability, potential toxicity, intended destination and more. For those who, sadly, did not survive the massive weather event, the macabre task of transferring the deceased is likewise a logistics function. Respectfully removing Haiyan’s victims in a safe, hygienic way requires careful planning that must be taken on, accounting for the safety of the crews and arranging for proper storage and care at the intended destination.

Logistics as a function is crucial in identifying, rescuing and taking proper care of survivors of natural disasters such as this, with experienced organizations such as the Red Cross and armed forces volunteered from the United States providing guidance in dealing with Haiyan and its aftermath.

The work being undertaken by volunteers, military personnel and nonprofit organizations in the area is nothing short of heroic, even as residents work towards regaining some sense of normalcy after such a calamity.


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