Logistics of Disaster Relief

What logistical problems can arise from natural disasters and how can they be overcome?

Seminar Paper, 2007

20 Pages, Grade: 2,0


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Literature Review

3. Theory
3.1 Different Modes of Transport
3.1.1 Air Transport
Air Planes
3.1.2 Boats
3.1.3 Railways
3.1.4 Roads
3.1.5 Rescue Boats: hovercrafts, canoes, small boats
3.2 Reasons why Relief Logistics are Delayed

4. Analysis
4.1 How the needs of people change
4.2 Re-routing
4.3 Supply chain
4.4 Warehousing
4.5 Time Relapse
4.6 Adaptation

5. Results

6. Conclusion

7. References

1. Introduction

Logistics plays a vital role in our daily life. “Logistics means the organized movement of goods, services, and, sometimes, people.”[1] Playing the part of customers, we purchase products that have been distributed along a logistical route prior to reaching us. Logistics makes our everyday lives less complicated by enabling us to order items online and receive them within a number of days, rather than having to go into a store.

Logistics is not only key in our everyday lives but it is imperative in emergency situations. The level of logistics needed will depend on the scale of the disaster.

A company’s logistics and supply chain procedures are put to the test when and after a natural disaster occurs. Logistics companies often find it very hard to get the necessary aid to the people who need it most and at the right time. Most logistics businesses were put under pressure when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005.

On August 23rd 2005, Hurricane Katrina took New Orleans and its logistics providers by surprise. Such destruction and devastation was not anticipated. This hurricane would turn out to be “the most destructive natural disaster in American History, it was also prove to be one of the deadliest”.[2] Katrina covered an area of over 90,000 square miles, leaving a trail of destruction in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi’s Gulf Coast and the city of New Orleans . The overall cost of the damage was almost $100 billion. The number of deaths was estimated to be between 1300 and 1800 and 3000 missing. The effect Katrina had on modes of transportation was very damaging with roads and railways being destroyed, port closures and also disruption to airport activities.[3]

Throughout my assignment I will study the logistical theories in coping with a natural disaster i.e. how to get aid and necessary survival supplies to affected areas when normal modes of transport cannot be used.

2. Literature Review

The homepages I have mainly used were the following ones:

- ´ http://findarticles.com `

because it provided me with a variety of different articles related to my topic

- ´http:// www.macalester.edu/environmentalstudies/students/projects


because in this report I found good explanations of relief efforts and rebuilding after the hurricane as well as causes and media presentations

- ´ http://www.fema.gov/news/newsrelease.fema?id=18598 `

because the point of view of a governmental institution is used

- ´http:// www.glscs.com/archives/11.06.exclusive.htm?adcode=30 `

because this interview shows the opinion of a high representative of a logistics company (DHL)

- ´ http://www.kcsmartport.com/sec_news/enews/archives/0905_enews.htm `

because it is a well written and informative article about transportation and trade in the issue of a natural disaster

- ´ http://eaglespeak.blogspot.com/2006/05/disaster-logistics.html `

because again it is an informative report about supply chain effects and transportation

The book I used was our text book to get an overview of my topic:

- International Logistics, 2nd edition, Wood, Donald F.(Author)

The article I used was the following one:

- Logistics Advertising Report, International Logistics: Katrina’s Challenge, The Australia Sep26, 2005

3. Theory

Although there are many modes of transport available under normal circumstances, they cannot always be used in a state of disaster. Therefore in this part of the assignment I will explain and discuss the different theories of how logistics can be used to distribute aid to a disaster stricken country. I will be using Hurricane Katrina where “more than 70 truck lines, 50 ocean carriers, 16 barge lines and six Class I rail lines serve the Port of New Orleans”[4] as an example to help me identify the logistical problems that may be caused by a natural disaster.

3.1 Different Modes of Transport

3.1.1 Air Transport

Air Planes

Planes can be used to transport both passengers and cargo. Some airlines are specifically designed to carry cargo e.g. DHL, but the majority carry both passengers and cargo e.g. Lufthansa. However in a natural disaster the use of airports can become limited as they may be closed or even destroyed. For example during Hurricane Katrina the airport in New Orleans was closed before the storm had struck and remained closed for the following days despite the fact that it only had minor damage to the roof.[5] Once the airport was re-opened it served as a hub for evacuees and allowed only military aircraft and aid supplies in and out. In other storm affected areas aircraft carriers were used to “relocate people and provided emergency medical and food supplies”[6]. In situations where a plane cannot be landed or it is impossible to get aid to people air bombs may be used to drop food, water and other necessary supplies.

I have outlined both the advantages and disadvantages of using air planes as a way of getting aid to the victims of natural disasters.

The first advantage is that this method is quick and therefore beneficial if it is carrying perishable foods. It can also be used to carry heavy loads of cargo i.e. Essential aid and supplies. Another advantage is that depending on the size of the plane, many people can be evacuated at once e.g. 10.000 victims were airlifted out each day.

Disadvantages include that an aeroplane is a more costly method of transportation especially when a natural disaster causes fuel prices to rise. While an air plane can carry a lot of people and equipment etc. it is still not as effective as a boat, which can hold much more. A further disadvantage is that where roads and railways etc. are blocked, supplies sitting at the airport are no use to the victims unless inter-modal routes are available. If a plane is not equipped to drop air bombs this can also be a disadvantage in entering a natural disaster area.


Whether helicopters are owned by the military or privately owned they can be used in rescue missions or to distribute aid. Helicopters are imperative in rescue situations, they can be used to distribute air bombs and can also land any where with a good surface. After Hurricane Katrina hit helicopters were used to “search for survivors”[7] in the wreckage. In a bid to control flooding “the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers planned to use helicopters to begin dropping 15,000-pound sandbags into breaches in the city's levee system”[8] .

Helicopters have many advantages in an emergency situation. Firstly, they are very quick in that they go from one place to another with great speed. They can also get to places air planes cannot reach and can perform operations air planes cannot fulfill.

A further advantage is that helicopters can land and take off from ships with both aid supplies and evacuees as well as on hospital heli-pads. Depending on the Helicopter, it may be equipped with rescue gear e.g. winches and stretchers etc.

However, helicopters also have a number of disadvantages. First of all, they cannot go for a long period of time without having to stop and re-fuel, which in itself is costly. Also they cannot hold a lot of people at once and are restricted by poor weather conditions.


[1] Wood, D. et al, (1994), International Logistics, p.1

[2] http://findarticles.com/p/search?tb=art&qt=%22Konzelman%2C+Karl%22

[3] Cf. http://findarticles.com/p/search?tb=art&qt=%22Konzelman%2C+Karl%22

[4] http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3766

[5] http://www.nola.com/newsfalsh/louisiana

[6] http://www.macalester.edu/environmentalstudies/students/projects/hurricanekatrinareport.pdf

[7] http://www.cnn.com

[8] http://www.cnn.com

Excerpt out of 20 pages


Logistics of Disaster Relief
What logistical problems can arise from natural disasters and how can they be overcome?
University of Örebro  (Department of Business, Economics, Statistics & Informatics (ESI))
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
512 KB
Katrina, Logistics, natural disasters, Thema Logistik
Quote paper
Rinke Kloppe (Author), 2007, Logistics of Disaster Relief, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/145246


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