Dayton, Ohio, USA, October 2013
When tasked with the writing of a posting covering the logistical operations involved in international disaster relief, it seemed appropriate to begin with a discussion of the unique operational requirements of humanitarian logistics. An excellent source of information on this subject was introduced in a 2007 article entitled, Humanitarian Logistics in Disaster Relief Operations, by Gyo¨ngyi Kova´cs and Karen M. Spens of the Swedish School of Economics and Business Administration (Hanken), in Helsinki, Finland. This posting will share the study’s insight and findings.
The study reviewed both academic and professional writings to develop a detailed description of the inner workings of humanitarian and disaster relief logistics operations. In compiling this information, the authors were able to develop a framework that distinguishes between the actors, phases and the logistical process involved in disaster relief. With the occurrence of each new disaster, interest in humanitarian logistics increases. The study points to the 2004 Asian tsunamis as its catalyst.
Humanitarian logistics is defined as an umbrella term covering both disaster relief and the continuous support for developing regions. The study notes the importance of logistics in humanitarian efforts, pointing out that logistical efforts account for 80 percent of disaster relief. This importance is made more apparent because of the element of time that is unique to these operations. The speed at which logisticians are able to procure, transport and receive life-saving supplies after a disaster takes place is crucial. However, time is only one of many elements that disaster relief efforts encounter. Unique to these operations are the destabilized environments and infrastructures in which they must operate, and the unpredictability of operations and demand.
The study found a consistent description of disaster management as a process made up of several phases, such as planning, mitigation, detection, response and recovery; though, most consolidate these into three, the phases of preparedness, during operations, and post-operations. These phases are complicated by the required coordination of different aid agencies, suppliers and local and regional actors, each having their individual operational methods and structures. Add to this, the consideration that must be made as to the cultural peculiarities of the disaster areas, language barriers, and humanitarian relief efforts are extremely challenging at the very least.
But wait, there is more … while operations are underway at all stages in the logistical chain, aid agencies are receiving unsolicited and often unwanted donations including drugs and food past their expiration dates, computers that require electricity to operate in an environment where the electrical infrastructure is in ruin, and clothing that is unsuitable for the environment. Even solicited items can become problematic when labeling is inconsistent or indecipherable. These good-hearted offerings often put a strain on already taxed operations.
The key to addressing these issues is an organizational structure that brings together all aspects of the logistical operations. Despite the often differing motivations of those that are part of the humanitarian efforts, all must be focused on playing their role as part of the humanitarian aid supply network.
The study’s authors propose an integrated framework that separates the perspectives of the various actors during the three operational phases. The framework includes the regional perspectives or those operations where the disaster has taken place, and the extra-regional perspective of the donors, aid agencies, governments and other actors taking part in the relief operations.
The following chart combines the perspectives of the different actors involved in the humanitarian logistics efforts. Thus, it is in a bringing together of phases of operations and regional and extra-regional perspectives that the operational coordination can take place.
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Paul Kovarovic, Vice President of Business Development
Paul C. Kovarovic is Vice President responsible for Government, Military, Public Health and Disaster Preparedness. The AcuTemp brand continues to achieve significant growth, Paul’s responsibility is to manage the expanding global capabilities and product offering to further the role of CSafe Global’s passive and active cold chain transportation. He is responsible for growing a global network of sales distribution representatives as well as the sales to global military and healthcare organizations. Paul is a former U.S. Air Force officer and has strategic experience in global revenue growth, institutional sales development and product line expansion. He has an M.S., Logistics Management, Air Force Institute of Technology and B.B.A., Economics, University of Georgia (Distinguished Military Graduate).
Kovács, G., & Spens, K. M. (2007). Humanitarian logistics in disaster relief operations. International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, 37(2), 99–114. doi:10.1108/09600030710734820
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