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Push vs. Pull Logistics System Is an Issue

When not based on requests, it is a problem.

Our disaster supply system is what we call a “pull system” based on the organization, government or agency asking for specific items of supply. That is how it is supposed to work.

However, in the pandemic the “pull system” converted to a push system. Which means as different items of personal protective equipment (PPE) became available, they were “pushed” or shipped out to states.

In the early stages of the pandemic there weren’t enough gloves, masks, gowns, etc., so supplies got rationed. Then as things improved the shipments continued.

Now in talking to one state I found they have 14,000 pallets of PPE material. Millions of items, sometimes in selected sizes like extra small that won’t fit many people. When I checked in with one other state they said they were in the same shape, too many supplies chasing too few requirements.

Which brings me to the tens of thousands of dust masks that we at the Washington state Emergency Management Division were disposing of in and around 1995. These had been purchased in the immediate aftermath of the Mt. Saint Helens eruption in 1980. How and when they ended up in a warehouse I don’t know — but we had them and they were deteriorating.

I’m wondering at what point are we starting to destroy/toss in the landfill PPE that has expired and has been stored for X number of years.

The pull system is not a bad way to go — if you are not looking to hoard supplies.
Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.