Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Student Plumbs Disaster Relief Logistics

Date:
May 12, 2005
Source:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Summary:
The devastation caused by last December's tsunami prompted an unprecedented outpouring of global aid that presented disaster relief providers with innumerable logistical challenges. Now an MIT graduate student has teamed up with an international humanitarian organization to draw logistical lessons from the relief effort and create a supply chain framework to deal with future disasters.

The devastation caused by last December's tsunami prompted an unprecedented outpouring of global aid that presented disaster relief providers with innumerable logistical challenges. Now an MIT graduate student has teamed up with an international humanitarian organization to draw logistical lessons from the relief effort and create a supply chain framework to deal with future disasters.

Tim Russell, a graduate student in the Engineering Systems Division, has been collaborating with the Fritz Institute, whose mission is to improve the efficiency of disaster relief efforts through logistics practices and technology solutions.

The Fritz Institute carried out a survey of almost 40 organizations that were providing on-site relief to tsunami victims in Southeast Asia and East Africa. More than 100 people from 18 international aid organizations replied.

Russell is analyzing the data. The initial results were presented in late April at the Humanitarian Logistics Conference in Geneva.

"The biggest lesson to be learned…is that one centralized group needs to coordinate the logistics of the entire [relief] effort," said Russell. After the tsunami hit, hundreds of aid organizations, thousands of volunteers, tons of supplies and billions of dollars flooded the region. Every organization agreed that the financial resources needed to conduct the relief effort were available, but the lack of clear ground information kept the aid from reaching many of the people in need.

The United Nations did set up a joint logistics center to help disseminate ground information and reduce duplications in the supply chain, but unfortunately not all groups used the hub. "It's the best way to share information. At the hub, they'll know what roads are open, what the latest customs processes are, if bridges have been fixed, and what the airport manifest looks like," Russell explained.

That information would have proved valuable to many of the organizations. For example, the survey showed that more than 70 percent of the respondents encountered delays due to the inconsistent and constantly changing customs procedures.

Another lesson learned from the Fritz survey is that aid organizations did not have enough people with appropriate training to perform specific tasks, especially trained logisticians.

When there are not enough logisticians in the field, said Russell, "there's no metrics being done, no way to track how fast goods are getting to their destination, and no means to evaluate the supply chain in real time." This problem is exacerbated by the lack of software to track the supply chain. According to the surveys, most organizations just use Excel spreadsheets or homegrown systems. "The cost of time and money to buy the software and train their people is too much for many groups to handle."

These problems are not new to the humanitarian community. "Whenever the international community responds to war, civil conflict and natural disasters with aid, complex logistical problems present themselves," said Russell. "Many people involved in humanitarian relief recognize these problems, but this is the first time anyone has ever done studies on how to solve them."

Russell hopes the Fritz survey and his research will help open the world's eyes to the need for more study in humanitarian logistics.

"This research might introduce the academic world to this problem," he said. "And who knows, it may inspire more people to do more studies and make humanitarian relief even more effective."

A version of this article appeared in the May 11, 2005 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 49, Number 27).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Student Plumbs Disaster Relief Logistics." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 May 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/05/050512095743.htm>.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (2005, May 12). Student Plumbs Disaster Relief Logistics. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/05/050512095743.htm
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Student Plumbs Disaster Relief Logistics." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/05/050512095743.htm (accessed September 17, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) A Texas man is lucky to be alive after he and three others floated for more than a day in the Gulf of Mexico when their boat sank during a fishing trip. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Federal researchers are exploring more than a dozen underwater sites where they believe ships sank in the treacherous waters west of San Francisco in the decades following the Gold Rush. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Isolated N. Korea Asks For International Help With Volcano

Isolated N. Korea Asks For International Help With Volcano

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) Mount Paektu volcano in North Korea is showing signs of life and there's not much known about it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

      Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins