Friday, November 8, 2013

Integrated Supply Chains for Disaster Relief

Yesterday, I reminded the students in the undergraduate Logistics and Transportation class that I am teaching this semester of recent natural disasters that affected us regionally from Superstorm Sandy in 2012, to the freaky Halloween snowstorm in 2011 (with power out for days on our area), to the once in 500 years flood, as a consequence of Hurricane Irene, also in 2011.

I also remarked that, thus far, this academic year has been relatively free of natural disasters in New England and Massachusetts.

I was speaking on how what we have learned in the course, to-date, including the network performance measure that I described yesterday, based on work done with Dr. Patrick Qiang. The network performance measure is known as the N-Q measure (for Nagurney-Qiang) and can  be applied to identify the most important nodes and links in transportation and logistics networks, including supply chains, since their removal from the network has the biggest impact on the network's performance.

The most important nodes and links are those that should be protected the most and also restored post disaster the quickest.  Our measure has been applied to identify the most important highways in Germany by Schultz, whether to build a new subway line in Dublin, Ireland, and even to assess the impacts on transportation of the major fires that struck Greece several years ago.

However, just because your region  or even country is not presently experiencing (or working to recover from) a disaster, does not mean that people elsewhere are not either preparing, enduring and suffering from, or working towards recovering from one disaster (or several).

And, indeed, yesterday and today, in the Philippines, what may be the biggest level 5 storm ever recorded is taking place, as reported on
Watch this video

Storm has 235 mph wind gusts

Next week, at the 60th Annual North American Meeting of the Regional Science Association International, which is taking place in Atlanta, GA, I will be giving a presentation on "An Integrated Disaster Relief Supply Chain Network Model with Time Targets and Demand Uncertainty," based on the paper of the same title, which is an invited paper for the Memorial Volume in honor of Professor Walter Isard, the founder of Regional Science. A preprint of the paper may be accessed here.  
Our presentation may be downloaded here.  The paper is co-authored with Professors Masoumi and Yu, two of my former doctoral students.

Our disaster relief supply chain network model captures both the preparedness phase and the response phase of the disaster management cycle (with the other two phases being mitigation and recovery). Also, in contrast to many of the models in the existing literature, our model does not consider targets for cost; instead, it minimizes the total operational costs of the activities in the supply chain network. This, we believe, makes more sense in that the relief operations budget largely depends on the intensity of damage and the fatality toll which may be difficult be determine a priori. In addition, our model allows for the pre-disaster and the post-disaster procurement of relief items, and involves the time and the cost associated with each strategy or a combination of both. Also, we handle nonlinear costs, which capture congestion effects, a big issue in disaster relief, and an aspect that has been missing from much of the literature on the topic.

According to The Washington Post:   The Philippines, which is hit by about 20 typhoons and storms a year, has in recent years become more serious about preparations to reduce deaths. Public service announcements are more frequent as are warnings issued by the president and high-ranking officials, regularly carried on radio and TV and social networking sites.

Provincial governors and mayors have taken a hands-on approach during crises, supervising evacuations, inspecting shelters and efforts to stockpile food and relief supplies.

After this megastorm has passed, we will see whether the efforts minimized losses in life, if not property, given the severity of the winds and rain.