Supply Chain Expertise Crucial in Disaster Recovery

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Supply Chain Expertise Crucial in Disaster Recovery

By Charlotte Franklin - 05/16/2012

When disaster strikes, a community is immediately in need of essential recovery resources – water, food and medical supplies – that are critical to saving lives and getting the community back to normal as quickly as possible. Whether a tornado, a flood or a manmade event, the biggest challenges involve getting the right resources to the right place at the right time.

Grocers have their own systems to mitigate disruptions during normal operations. But what happens when “normal” turns into “crisis” and everything changes? As large-scale disasters have shown, the struggle to deliver and distribute critical supplies either saves the day or creates a “disaster within the disaster,” as processes and systems fall apart. Therefore, grocers are vital to rapid and efficient recovery processes.

The Arlington County Office of Emergency Management, on behalf of the Northern Virginia Emergency Response System, is examining what happens the moment the disruption occurs due to an incident. What they’ve found speaks volumes.

Disaster recovery resource management is not an asset issue. Local emergency managers are examining ways in which government can help clear the way for grocers to deliver essential supplies after a disaster. The Northern Virginia Recovery Resource Initiative, in working with the private sector to identify remedies, held a large forum at which national supply chain retailers and grocers were asked: “What do you need from us?”

Here’s How Grocers Can Get Involved

Grocers can take several steps in helping to lead this new, supply chain-focused approach in emergency recovery. By initiating and maintaining communication with local government, grocers can help close the communication gap between resource providers, local coordinators and recipients to expedite distribution of goods. Grocers of every size already have relationships with community distribution centers, such as food banks. In a time of crisis, the use of these existing channels and relationships saves hours, days or even weeks in getting critical supplies into your community.

A two-day Regional Catastrophic Resource Planning Summit is planned for January 2013 at which large grocers, retailers, financial institutions, medical suppliers, supply chain experts and the critical infrastructure stewards that support them will discuss what would happen should a catastrophic event happen in the region. This summit will be funded by the Regional Catastrophic Preparedness Grant Program. During the summit, local emergency managers and the private sector will develop real tangible remedies that every local community can accomplish pre-event that would mitigate the impact on distribution and delivery of goods and services. These recommendations will be available to all communities. (If you are interested in participating in summit, contact me.)

Additionally, grocers can provide input and help define what is needed to facilitate community resiliency and recovery by taking the Emergency Supply Chain Resilience Survey. Data gathered from this survey will provide insight on ways local governments can work closely with grocers and other resource providers.

Grocers – particularly their distribution managers – need to sit down with local emergency managers to launch a supply chain conversation. When an emergency is happening, it is too late to start planning – it’s time to start doing.

Charlotte Franklin is deputy coordinator of Arlington County, Va.’s Office of Emergency Management.