CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly
December 12, 2018
Forward Thinking

When catastrophe strikes, being "overprepared" pays off

A panel at CSCMP's 2012 Annual Global Conference explored the stresses on supply chains when disaster strikes, and how to prepare for them.

Thinking about the unthinkable can make you uncomfortable, but it's the only way to avoid failures in response efforts when disaster occurs.

That was one of the many pieces of advice that came out of a session titled "Catastrophic Events: The Ultimate Supply Chain Resiliency Test" at the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals' Annual Global Conference. Jock Menzies, president of the American Logistics Aid Network, led the discussion about the supply chain stresses inherent in disaster response and recovery.

At one point, David Kaufman, director of policy and program analysis at the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), told the audience, "We have a self-interest in the nation's resilience in the face of catastrophic events." In truth, he went on, the top concern isn't really the catastrophic event itself, it's the domino effect that follows disasters and creates further consequences.

Some questions teed up by the panel that should give all of us pause:

  • In the absence of power, how do we deliver potable water, or any other essential services or commodities, through the "last tactical mile"?
  • Things cannot return to normal until the private sector restores operations. What, then, does the private sector need from the government to help it get up and running in the wake of a disaster?
  • Nobody likes to consider worst-case scenarios, but what happens if the "maximum of maximums" happens? How will you recover?
  • How can you leverage regional, national, or international size and scale to create effective local response?

Sandra G. Carson, vice president of enterprise risk management and compliance at Sysco, offered this advice: "You've got to be willing to take criticism for being overprepared, because there is no defense for being underprepared."

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