How Supply Chains Prepare for Hurricane Season
For those living anywhere near the Atlantic or the Gulf Coast, hurricane season is a very real thing. More often than not, these hurricanes begin life as tropical storms that build up power as they cross over the ocean. By the time they make landfall, they are usually massive and simply pummel their way through, destroying all in their path.
Unfortunately, it looks like they won’t be slowing down any time soon.
In fact, in 2018 there were eight hurricanes that hit the Southern and Eastern regions of the US, causing nearly $50 billion in damages. This includes Hurricane Michael, a devastating Category-5 hurricane that made landfall in Florida in October.
While hurricanes wreak havoc on buildings, homes, and basic infrastructure, it also disrupts most, if not all, supply chain movement. And the reality is that we aren’t just talking about movement of freight during a hurricane. We are talking about the aftermath that hurricanes of large magnitude cause to basic mobility of logistics networks. Trying to get a supply chain up and running efficiently after a massive hurricane hits is no small task!
Furthermore, it can significantly impact public health and safety as it may leave entire cities crippled. In many cases, leaving areas completely cut off from the rest. However, being cut off from the rest of the world does not stop the need for medications, food, and other needed goods to the people who depend upon to live.
But all is not lost. In fact, those who operate within the logistics world can implement a disaster preparedness plan that can help them reduce damage, improve safety, and minimize shipping delays. We may not be able to stop Mother Nature, but we can learn to prepare for her wrath.
Below are eight things that all supply chain partners can and should add to their hurricane preparation checklist.
Short-Term Hurricane Preparation Plans
The Hurricane season for the Atlantic coast begins June 1 and it continues through the end of November. That is half of the standard calendar year. Within that window of time, the potential for hurricanes and tropical storms doubles beyond the rest of the year. It’s not a matter of if a hurricane forms, it is simply a matter of when.
Luckily, most hurricane prediction models are becoming exceptionally accurate. What this means is that that there’s really no excuse for a lack of a solid hurricane preparation plan in place within any supply chain.
However, we do know that not all supply chains have such a plan set up. So, if this sounds like you, let us give you some tips to get you started off on the right foot with your short-term planning…
Develop a strong forecasting alert system
The efficient movement of freight is dependent on clear roads and good weather. Since a hurricane or tropical storm can cause havoc to both of these, having a strong forecast alert system in place is a smart move.
These systems monitor and relay information from national and regional weather agencies. Proactive companies should be in the habit of assigning key employees in multiple departments to monitor weather activity on a daily basis. This information should be relayed to all team leaders in each role of the supply chain. In the event of an impending disruption to the supply chain via weather changes, all stakeholders should also be notified.
Improve inventory levels during hurricane season
The second way to stay ahead of hurricane-related logistics delays is to maintain increased inventory levels through the season. This is especially critical for retailers or manufacturers who deal in commodities that are in demand during this season, such as wood, metals, safety equipment, water, and food. This will ensure the suppliers can keep up with emergency demand as consumers stock-up.
Identify areas of vulnerability
As a hurricane approaches, supply chains will discover areas within their network that struggle during these aggressive weather patterns. Take note of these, research ways to correct and then implement them after the storm passes.
It’s important for businesses to learn from previous mistakes and identify areas of their supply chain that require fine-tuning to reduce such service disruptions.
Create emergency communication plans
One of the biggest issues with extreme weather is a disruption of normal communication methods. This includes cell and internet connectivity. As a proactive measure, it’s a wise idea for supply chain stakeholders to establish backup communications methods and back-up power supplies.
A way to begin achieving this is to keep and maintain a backup power generator on-site.
Long-Term Hurricane Preparation Plans
While the things we previously mentioned certainly help reduce logistics headaches as hurricane season approaches, they are quick fixes. Staying ahead of the long-term curve should be the primary goal.
Below, we have compiled a list of the things that you should consider implementing for the long-haul…
Create alternative routing
This is especially important for southern US transportation companies who operate in Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, and other Gulf Coast states. When hurricanes or tropical storms arrive, they tend to cause flooding and damage on many roadways, especially in outlining areas.
To improve route efficiency and reduce delays, create a series of alternative routes for trucks to take during tropical storms or hurricanes. This is also where having cloud-based dynamic routing software in place really comes in handy!
Diversify the network of carriers
It’s also advised for all supply chains to establish a diverse network of carriers. By having many movement options available to you, you can keep some freight moving by using carriers who can pick up routes from those who are in an active hurricane region.
Test your emergency services
Waiting until the hurricane season arrives to determine if your emergency planning works is never a good idea. The ‘off-season’ is a great time to test your emergency communication and evacuation plans.
Put your workers through emergency drills and monitor their performance under stress. Take note of all weak points and begin finding ways to improve those specific areas.
Improve your facilities to reduce flood exposure
It’s hard to pick-up and move a distribution warehouse or fulfillment center.
However, many existing locations can make improvements to their facilities to improve drainage in parking lots or on property that can reduce the potential of hurricane or tropical storm waters flooding their facilities.
As always, the safety and security of everybody is a priority. One that should be planned for and executed during a tropical storm or hurricane.
Is your supply chain resilient to hurricane season? If not, what are you going to do about it?
By following these eight simple steps, your logistics based business can reduce a lot of the headaches associated with these devastating storms.
Want to learn more about best practices for preparing for hurricane season? Reach out to the experts at Redwood Logistics today!