Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Next Generation Crisis and Disaster Management Logistics and Planning

Crisis and disaster response practitioners prepare using established training programs and curriculum. Instructors have not updated education programs in decades because in principle, the more things appear to change, the more they stay the same. That axiom has held true since the 1950's until present day. Changes however, are coming. Planning and Logistics need a reset and upgrade to 2.0 and beyond. Next Generation is here. Now.

In our DDRS magazine, we routinely curate articles that may not immediately attract the interest of crisis and disaster management planners and logistics managers. After a catastrophic event, emergency management agencies review the critical needs required to respond. Traditionally, the most important elements in no particular order are; Communications, Transportation and Energy. (Comms, Lift & Power). Having those in the field enabled other support systems to operate; food, shelter and healthcare. How the first three are supported is beginning to change in many parts of the western world with many developing nations on the cusp of implementing a similar path. Communications is no longer simply augmented by traditional telephone service, but internet enabled social media and wireless Simple Message Service (SMS) applications. How planners and logistics managers fill these voids during a disaster means new understanding in community behavior and expectations.

DDRS found this story about an electric bus delivering 700 mile travel on a single charge. (Photo Credit Autoblog Green)
Transportation is no longer simply a matter of commercial and military airlift, but utilizing undamaged local assets such as buses, ships, and trains. In the past, this was a straight forward affair, simply find and supply fuel to revitalize mobility. Diesel fuel is common and widely available. But this too is not as straight forward as it once was. Many  cities are converting to all electric modes of mass transit with personal automobiles following suit. Even some harbor ferries are converting to electric engines and batteries. Restoration of electricity generation becomes critical which is often already in short supply during an disaster event.

There is good news. We are beginning to see new products and services that can generate electricity and store it in smaller form factors than in the past. Solar panel efficiency has dramatically improved, as have micro-turbine wind generator performance. Even traditional diesel powered generators have undergone significant design changes including low emissions, increased electrical output and quieter operating footprint. All three are lighter and capable of withstanding (most) severe environmental conditions during field operations.

Throughout the magazine we have linked to some new shelter designs, cooking tools, personal safety equipment and many others. Future response services may see 3D Printers become an important tool used by disaster response agencies. We have curated some very interesting articles leveraging this unique on the fly manufacturing capability. Production models are not too far off in the future. These products will require vast quantities of energy to operate. Overall, the energy footprint will still be less, as only basic raw materials will be fed into these 3D machines to create finished components or finished products. Some of them may be recycled from the disaster event, including concrete, wood, and a wide variety of plastics. 3D printer feed stocks could be abundantly available and gathered by locals, saving time and logistics costs, allowing traditional support assets such as international airlift to be tasked to other priorities or areas.

Something old, renewed, a cassette tape capable of storing 185 TB of data. (photo credit: Wikepedia / Maxell)
Other interesting stories include new data storage tapes (yes, magnetic tapes) now capable of holding up to 185 Terabytes of data. That may not sound like much, but given its size, you could fill a C-130 Hercules with enough back tapes (of this size) that could transport the entire State of New York's historical data archives along with Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Vermont... Besides, what would you rather carry around, N x 185 hard drives (not to mention electrical power needs) or a single cassette tape. We have also curated several stories on the impact and use of big data. We are going to need back up solutions that are efficient and easy to transport. Your State did back up critical information to another region with limited exposure and risk - right?

By curating a wide range of stories that look at critical infrastructure upgrades that many cities are now implementing, emergency and civil protection education can be adequately prepared in advance. What was considered just an experiment just a few years ago (e.g. electric buses and cars) is no longer the case. Solar energy repair and supply of parts is going to be critical in many regions of the world. Look for 3D Printing technology to become an essential response tool.

These developments and others are coming with many already in pre-production or early field trials. As several articles suggest, not only are many of these products available in small and large quantities, our exposure and understanding of how they work and operate is limited. Over the next 5 to 10 years, Crisis and Disaster planners and logistics managers will face a steep learning curve to determine best practices to deliver next generation support, ensuring these technologies can be maintained, repaired and resupplied. Logistics teams will focus on supply chain requirements around electricity while planners will need to learn about amps and volts on a whole new level. Times really are changing. Supply Chain Logistics NG and Planning 2.0 should be beta testing in a city near you. I hope.

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