Hurricane Sandy: a test case example of supply chain failure
In the USA, we live under a pleasant fiction that in the event of a disaster, that government agencies will come to our rescue. We think that they come with water, food, fuel, and medical assistance the moment the disaster has finished. Nothing could be further from the truth.
For that to happen, it would assume that they were prescient, and had prepared a huge pile of inventory and personnel to deploy, for that target population. We know that can't happen for many reasons...
1) It violates the known phenomena of “red tape”. Any official government institution has rules and administration. They state when and where and why and how an agency can intercede, and often as a result of local and state governments ceding over their oversight. So while the two argue, then delays are created.
2) Any organization that moves is typically slow with orders within its own organization.
3) Any organization will think, “How will our actions be noticed by the end users and the oversight committee who funds us? Will it be favorable or not to that Senate subcommittee or not? Will it cost us votes?” This makes things slow down.
4) As previously discussed, JIT manufacturing has been adopted by so many organizations, that this will govern how much warehousing is in place to minimize expenditures.
5) Since most government agencies must use a government bid system to get the least expensive items that fulfill the contract, and this contract must be administrated by all of those agencies in the chain of command plus the vendors, then this takes time.
6) Whatever items that were purchased, must be pulled by the customer fulfillment folks in warehousing and then placed on railroad cars, barges, trucks, airplanes, to begin movement. If it's not on a transportation hub, then likely it will move across hubs until then it's trucked the rest of the way.
7) If security is an issue, or fuel sources due to disaster, then those ancillary issues must be addressed as well.
8) Murphy's Law will cause fog-of-war issues with stupid mistakes and weather and bad luck.
9) The only way to go around such issues is to rely upon agencies that act rapidly like the military, and that can't happen often because those supplies were paid for specific uses, not humanitarian effort, and requires a command decision to be made to alter the rules, and that's where the buck stops.
All of these rules plus more that I didn't think of will stop the supply chain.
We know that people need water. They need it in three days or they begin to get dehydrated and die. It's a function of physical activity. In any emergency, it's the first issue next to exposure to the cold which supersedes it. In all emergencies you send water. Now we know that even water had to be “bid upon” and so, even that basic necessity is limited by red tape.
Hurricane Sandy happened over a big area and caused disruptions, but the actual people who needed direct government assistance in an emergency way was quite small, if you think about it. While there's always people needing assistance in a disaster, you triage who needs it most. That number was small but many were also helped with other larger issues. And yet, we couldn't fulfill this small group will basic things: water, fuel, food, generators in a short period of time, but really too many many days.
Years ago, I talked to an official for I live in an area that probably will have an earthquake in the next 100 years [Note: Most you do if you study an seismology charts.] He told me that you need to take care of yourself for two weeks, and then the supplies and personnel will be coming...and these were to urban centers.
Imagine the chaos of a dollar collapse, which of course wouldn't be limited to a small area, but wide-spread across nations, and I think it proves my point that the human cost would be large.