Preparedness & Recovery

Supply Chain Management Will Enable a More Efficient Response

This will open up opportunities to find solutions that allow for faster, more efficient delivery of critical supplies once an incident happens.

by Charlotte Franklin / December 14, 2012
Image from Shutterstock

When communities face a disaster or civil emergency, the government and private sector must work together to move swiftly and smoothly into response and recovery modes. But when dealing with the effects of hurricanes, floods, tornadoes or man-made events, some communities will experience unexpected challenges over the logistics and distribution of resources like water, food and medical supplies.

One solution is to look at emergency management and disaster recovery as a supply chain issue instead of an inventory issue. This way, emergency managers and communities are more effectively and efficiently positioned to handle a crisis before an incident occurs. Another reason for this view is that it will open up opportunities to find solutions that allow for faster, more efficient delivery of critical supplies once an incident happens. The key to this approach is a new conversation in which local government asks private businesses, “How can we clear the way
for the delivery of emergency resources should an incident occur?”

We know that businesses already have the expertise and processes to move supplies into the community. They are the recovery and continuity experts. When the needed types of supplies change depending on a disaster, delivery and distribution challenges remain consistent, even
if the scale changes.

When the emergency happens, it’s too late for planning. Putting the emphasis on mitigating supply chain vulnerabilities before a crisis can help remedy major challenges related to disaster recovery resource management:

There’s always a period immediately after an incident when response is the priority. Once response initiates, recovery can begin, but only if supply destination options have been preplanned so the right supplies are already on their way.

The private and nonprofit sectors are going to help. Local emergency managers can work with them pre-event to pave their way and address regulatory and policy-related obstacles that may impede their progress.

The level of community resiliency can only be truly evaluated after the incident by measuring recovery time length and its efficiency. Given this, local emergency management should ensure supply chain resiliency is a top priority.

Until now, pre-event recovery resource planning has been mostly about inventory and warehousing. But with an emergency, knowing precisely what will be needed where, in what quantity and by whom, can’t be predicted. Focusing on the supply chain redundancy, as well as real-time communication and interface, can provide a more effective way to get critical supplies quickly after an incident.

Recovery resource distribution planning will expose where intersections already exist between for-profit supply delivery systems and a community’s nonprofit services, so as not to reinvent the process.

On Jan. 30-31, 2013, Arlington County, Va., will host the Local Capacity Supply Chain Exercise Summit, which will unite grocers, retailers, financial institutions, medical suppliers, supply chain experts and the critical infrastructure stewards that support them. Recommendations from the summit will be made available to all communities as a guide for a supply chain-focused approach to emergency preparedness.

In addition, a major expansion of our Public Recovery Resource Access Portal is under way to add more mapping layers and expand the jurisdictions that can use it. This online resource provides real-time updates during disasters to help businesses and the public know where to donate and receive supplies. It has been designed to be easily adapted to any jurisdiction.

Charlotte Franklin is the deputy coordinator of Arlington County, Va.’s Office of Emergency Management. To attend the two-day summit, email her at or call (703) 228-0593.