This idea is often presented the other way around: how to perform disaster recovery on a supply chain. However, there’s mutual benefit to be derived between the two concepts. Supply chain methods can help companies, organisations and communities get back on their feet after a disaster too. The same principles that make inventory handling and logistics can also contribute to a more efficient response – sometimes a lifesaving response.  Indeed, the basic definition of supply chain fits well with emergency response: it begins when a demand (need) is created and its performance is defined by the efficiency and effectiveness with which that need is met.

The mechanisms and goals of supply chain dovetail with emergency situations through the use of processes to speed up goods transit and delivery for instance. Efficient picking and packing of items destined to help people and organizations recover, cross-docking to transfer goods immediately to a logistics partner for forwarding and end to end visibility of global performance and customer satisfaction are all relevant. Considering the supply chain as a source of opportunity instead of a limiting factor is another sound principle to keep in mind. The supply chain like other parts of emergency response is adaptive, not static.

Of course, these things don’t happen by themselves. For a supply chain to function well in a commercial context takes careful planning and execution. The same is true of emergency situations: in fact, doubly so, because of the unpredictability. In the same way that the rest of the organization needs to be train and prepare for possible disasters beforehand, so does the supply chain. Supplies of water, food, medical supplies and any other requisite items need to be identified and prepared for upfront, as do possible third party logistics providers. A further set of checkboxes therefore to be added to disaster relief or resilience planning – with the right set of plans behind them.