Disaster Relief & How Procurement Can Help

Power of Procurement in Hard Times

With two powerful hurricanes hitting the US over the last month, many Americans saw first-hand the effects of supply chains suddenly coming to a halt. As hurricane victims prepared for the worst and dealt with the hurricane aftermath, many were faced with dangerous shortages like water, food, and shelter space.

Victims are affected not only by shortages, but also un-managed relief following natural disasters. Without organized logistics, many time relief efforts can cause more problems than they solve. Juanita Rilling, former director of the Center for International Disaster Information in Washington, D.C., recently noted the potential harm of donating the wrong items in times of crisis.

When Hurricane Mitch struck Honduras in 1998, over 11,000 people died and about 1.5 million were left homeless. Rilling shared that she, “Got a call from one of our logistics experts who said that a plane full of supplies could not land, because there was clothing on the runway. It’s in boxes and bales. It takes up yards of space. It can’t be moved.’ ‘Whose clothing is it?’ He said, ‘Well, I don’t know whose it is, but there’s a high-heeled shoe, just one, and a bale of winter coats.’ And I thought, winter coats? It’s summer in Honduras.”

In 2004, after an Indian Ocean tsunami, a beach in Indonesia was piled with used clothing donations. Without the manpower or time to sort and clean the clothing, the donations sat and rotted. Rilling noted, “This very quickly went toxic and had to be destroyed,” said Rilling. “And local officials poured gasoline on it and set it on fire. And then it was out to sea.” Poorly thought out donations cost valuable time that could be used to help those most in need.

Recently, Vroozi Director of Global Sales & Marketing, Brad Hill, was able to volunteer his time with an organized church effort to help those affected in Hurricane Harvey. He said, “We set up a makeshift Procurement System to fill orders from evacuees that were able to drive to the location. We staged a “department store” on the inside from the donations. “Order Takers” went to the cars, took orders and handed it to “Shoppers” that went inside filled the orders and then delivered them to the cars! Awesome to see the humanity of the volunteers and the level of donations.” Organized efforts make a huge difference in the effectiveness of disaster relief.

Here are three procurement principles that can help disaster relief be most effective.

Organized Needs Assessment & ‘Orders’Assessing needs and planning ahead is step one of the procurement process. This is equally true in disaster relief logistics. As volunteers and groups could assess the needs of disaster victims, they were best prepared to fulfill those needs rather than blindly sending in items that may or may not be needed.

Supplier Relationships – For purchasing organizations, having partnerships with the right suppliers is everything. In disaster relief, the value of a network of volunteers is invaluable. In Houston, many local and national organizations were able to come together in an organized effort to get the right help to the people who needed it most. Not only did organizations help, but also individuals who could assess needs right in their own neighborhoods. People used their own boats to rescue trapped people, and neighbors shared their resources with those in need.

The Right Goods & Services – The right procurement solution should give users access to the right goods and services, that best fit the needs of the company. In times of disaster, while many feel that giving money is not a personal enough donation, money is often the most effective way to help in times of disaster. For example, water bottle donation for 100,000 litres would cost $300,000 to ship to West Africa, but relief organizations can invest in portable water purification units that could produce 100,000 liters of clean water for $300.”

Natural disasters cause chaos and fear, but by working together and using effective relief procurement principles, order and peace are restored.

To learn more about procurement, request a demo with a live Vroozi representative now.


Source: CBS News, Best intentions: When disaster relief brings anything but relief