Friday, September 02, 2005

Why does it take so long to provide relief?

I, like everyone else, am frustrated at the length of time required to provide relief. I have extensive experience in business operations and therefore understand that some delay is to be expected, however, this seems to be taking too long. Let me explain. Recovery forces must be self-sufficient. This means they bring their own food, water, fuel, sanitary facilities and transportation. If you bring in 5,000 workers, you need to have physical space to “shelter” (read support) these people. Tent cities would need to be created. And this is just for the workers. Why do you need to do this? These workers will be on site for several days or weeks.

Obviously, you could disburse workers into the area while having others set up the necessary support facilities. Now let’s work on the timeline. Step 1 – Notify workers to move to centers to prepare to be mobilized. Step 2 – Load supplies and workers onto transportation. Step 3 – Transport workers. Step 4 – Disburse workers and supplies while creating “shelter” for workers. Step 5 – Prepare outside facilities to receive refugees. Step 6 – Transport refugees to outside facilities.

Step 1 – Place workers on alert – 12 to 24 hours
Step 2 – Load supplies – 12 hours
Step 3 – Transport workers – 12 to 48 hours
Step 4 – Disburse workers – 12 hours
Step 5 – Prepare outside facilities 24 to 48 hours
Step 6 – Transport Refugees 12 to 48 hours

Total time – 3.5 to 8 days

OK, so where do you put the refugees? And let’s keep in mind we’re talking about big numbers – over 100,000 people. An outside facility needs to be able to provide shelter, sanitary facilities and kitchens. Two possibilities come to mind – schools and hotels. I would allocate every school to this function. Classrooms become sleeping areas. All schools have sanitary and cafeteria facilities. I would move people north, east and west outside of the disaster area. This would affect a significant number of states. The start of school would be delayed.

Let’s assume an average school has 10 classrooms and you can put 12 cots in each classroom. That means a school could house 120 people. You would need 833 schools to house 100,000 people. Sounds doable to me.

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