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Disaster Recovery Infrastructure

  1. Sep 2, 2005 #1

    russ_watters

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    Several people have hit on this issue, and I think GE is the best place to put it. Infrastructure is an engineering issue (kinda). Plus, I can keep politics out of here rather easily...

    In this thread, I'd like to explore how disaster recovery should be done. First, I have some general ideas/comments, then two case studies:

    The military keeps pre-positioned equipment, supplies, and troops forward deployed throughout the world, most notably, the Maritime Prepositioning Ships at Diego Garcia (random google):
    AFAIK, no such prepositioning of disaster relief equipment/supplies exists in the US.

    A rough calculation says that 700,000 gallons of water (2,800 tons) and 700 tons of food could supply 100,000 people for a week. At 20 tons each, that's 175 tractor trailers. If we had, say, 3 depots (1 west coast, 2 east coast), you could get aid to anywhere in the country in about 2 days (figure 1 day of mobilization, one day of driving).

    There are, of course, bigger challenges than just food and water, but that's the first need. I'd like to use this thread to develop an idea of what this prepositioned force should look like.

    One note on Bush - and this will be the only mention of his name in this thread: Presidents are decision makers - they do not actually do anything. A system needs to be in place where all the President has to do is utter the word "execute" in response to a question from a staffer regarding a specific disaster relief plan that is already in place. He can do that just as well from a lounge-chair in Fiji as he can from the oval office.

    That's the beauty of pre-programmed responses. Heck, they barely even require decisions - all major decisions are made beforehand and entered into a "decision matrix", where once pre-determined conditions have been met (say, a 75% chance of a cat3 hurricane hitting within 50 miles of a major city), the decision is made virtually automatically.

    Some of what may be discussed here may be on shaky ground Constitutionally, ie issues with sending federal troops into a city for law enforcement. I'd prefer to worry about that in another thread. Suggest whatever you feel is necessary, and we'll deal with the political (or financial) ramifications elsewhere.

    Now, my two case studies:

    The first is, of course, a hurricane hitting a major population center. This is by far the easier of the two, because it is predictable. A prediction can be made two days in advance that is good enough to base an "execute" order on. A depot, like I described earlier, would be located in Alabama (or perhaps just west of Atlanta) - a couple hundred miles from the coast. A general call would go out for pre-approved truck drivers to go to the depot. The first 175 to arrive get to drive the trucks (and get their $10,000 bonus). National guard units from every state would send a pre-determined number of people - 100, or 1,000 based on the predicted severity, and vans/busses/etc would sent to local airports to pick them up as they arrived, to ferry them to the depot to await the coming disaster. Depending on where the hurrican is to hit, the entire convoy could drive, in the next 24 hours, to a staging area far enough away from the hurricane to not be hit too hard, but close enough for a 4 hour drive (~250 miles).

    With the equipment already in place, fueled, and ready to go, I'd expect it to take about a day to mobilize the people, but in that 48 hours after the "execute" order is made, we could have 50,000 people in a disaster area. Even if they are doing little more than tossing bottles of water and MREs off the backs of trucks, while looking menacing in their battle-dress and guns, that would solve a significant fraction of the problems being experienced now. But the key is that this needs to be executed before the hurricane hits. 48 hours is a relatively short reaction time, but as we see with the current situation, even 48 hours is not good enough if it starts when the disaster hits.

    Now, for the second case study, what about a big earthquake or a 9/11? Those are tougher because there is no warning. With 3 disaster relief centers, you can reach probably 90% of the country's population (the lower 48, anyway) in a day's drive, focusing on the two biggest dangers - hurricanes and earthquakes. For these scenarios, the primary response must be local. There simply isn't enough time to bring in people from elsewhere, even from the next state over. This then means, primarily local police and fire fighters. New York has had a disaster relief plan since the first WTC bombing in '93, and it worked at least reasonably well on 9/11. All other major population centers need one.

    Now, my prepositioned trucks idea only covers about half of the primary problem - the relief part. What to do about recovery? There should be a standing order that every military helicopter crew in America not on leave should be on a 24 hour semi-mandatory recall. Military MPs should have a similar standing recall order.

    So - its rough, but its a start....
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2005
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  3. Sep 2, 2005 #2

    Astronuc

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    Yes - this is a good start.

    I have thought about such plans since Andrew and probably before.

    People need food and water - probably with water as the highest priority.

    Clothing and shelter - maybe inflatable shelters for so many persons which contain one or more change of clothing.

    Then portable/mobile generators. A nearby Caterpillar/heavy equipment distributor has trailers with huge generators ready to go. Heavier generators could be put on railroad flatcars. But then railroads are vulnerable to floods, as is the case with UP, CSX, NS an KCS in New Orleans.

    Communications equipment. Heavy equipment like pumps (for floods)? But then some floods are so huge, would it matter?

    Logical places to store this equipment would be within 300 miles of areas that are deemed a risk and perhaps 600 miles between each site. So how about 10-12 sites distributed from Texas to New Jersey, some up in N. California to Washington, somewhere in the mid-West along the Missouri/Mississippi systems.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2005
  4. Sep 2, 2005 #3

    russ_watters

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    Clothing I'm not sure is feasible (one-size fits who?), but shelter - a pop-up tent with a handful of blankets in it is probably a pretty simple thing to make (if it doesn't already exist).
    A buddy of mine works for Nextel and one of the things they do is mobile cel networks and all the telemetry, etc. at NASCAR races. And satellite phones should be about ready for prime-time too.
    You're not going to pump out New Orleans, but you can pump out the superdome, so yeah, I'd put pumps on the list. Fire trucks can handle that, though.
    That's a lot of sites, and 300 miles is 5 hours. I think that's closer than necessary for things like hurricanes, but surprise disasters it may be better. What I think is tougher than getting the equipment to the disaster, though, is getting the people to the equipment.
     
  5. Sep 2, 2005 #4

    Astronuc

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    I was thinking keeping the equipment far enough away that the storage area will not get hit.

    One could increase the number of sites and reduce the distance to all possible sites.

    I was thinking emergency clothing can be like light/baggy coveralls with stretchy feet. One size fits different size people.

    Part of the problem in distributing clothing aid is sorting all the types and sizes and getting them to the right people who are all different types and sizes.

    I did a humanitarian aid (warm clothing) for Afghanistan last year and earlier this year. I had to sort and itemize for customs and the distributor. It was a pain.
     
  6. Sep 2, 2005 #5
    Perhaps we should turn over the logistics to Wallart. Their system of regional distribution centers works great. :smile:

    edit:
    FEMA is now a part of Homeland security. Could it be that they tripped over each other on this one. Below is a link to a hurricane situation where they did get it right.

    http://www.dhs.gov/dhspublic/display?content=1616

    It is imperative that materials be prepositioned in some manner. FEMA is supposed to do that. But they apparently just move materials around from storm to storm. Russ is right we need to have a better method.

    I sincerely believe that there are people on this forum who could come up with a plan better than anything FEMA ever dreamed of.
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2005
  7. Sep 2, 2005 #6

    LURCH

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    Not to be "Captain Obvious", a local responses should be tailored to local threats. The response team and staging area around Seattle/Tachoma should have provisions for the kind of work needed to cope with the aftermath of a major volcanic eruption (probably includes equipment for locating and digging out people trapped under ash and mudslides), for the midwest, thermal blankets and heaters (to cope with killer blizzards).

    Also, there would need to be an emergy medical aspect to each response team and staging area. If you're going to have Reservists and the like on limitted standby, some of them should be medics, and some of the supplies warehoused should include field medical kits. Again, these kits should probably be equipped to handle the type of injury generally associaetd with disasters likely to happen in that area (splints and stretchers for places prone to earthquake, smoke inhalation treatments for palces where fire is a likely threat).
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2005
  8. Sep 2, 2005 #7

    Hurkyl

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    Is the relevant beaurocracy in the scope of this thread? It would seem to me, actually, to be even more important than the infrastructure... of course you need both, though, so maybe that should be in its own thread? (Or do you count the beaurocracy as part of the infrastructure?)
     
  9. Sep 3, 2005 #8

    Astronuc

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    For the infrastructure to be used effectively, one needs an emergency management system, i.e. bureaucracy. Such a bureaucracy exists already, but apparently is somewhat deffective.

    As for the Seattle/Tacoma, area and Portland too, they have the Cascade Volcanos as potential threats. There is a concern that if Mt. Rainier erupted like Mt. St. Helens, it could endanger several hundred thousand people - in Olympia, Tacoma and southern part of Seattle. Portland has Mt. Hood to worry about.

    Seattle/Tacoma also has to worry about tsunamis, although they seem to be somewhat protected by the peninsula. Portland is far enough up river, tsunamis may not be a concern.

    Clearly it appears that no part of the country is prepared for a disaster like Katrina, despite the existence of agencies like HS and FEMA. We certainly seem to need political leadership who can lead and act swiftly and the local and state, as well as federal level. Like Russ mentioned, I would prefer to focus on the engineering, logistical aspects and leave politics out of this discussion.
     
  10. Sep 3, 2005 #9

    russ_watters

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    Well, there is an MBA equivalent at Drexel that I'm thinking of taking called "Engineering Management". Obviously, part of good engineering is making good decisions, so I think as long as we can keep the politics out of it, the organizational structure and decision making process is a relevant discussion.

    It would also be relevant to the politics forum, but frankly, I don't think such a discussion would stay on point there.
     
  11. Sep 3, 2005 #10

    russ_watters

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    Well, not turn it over to them, but maybe emulate them. And FedEx too... I mean, if I can FedEx a case of water to any address in NO in 24 hours, the day before a disaster, the government should be able to do the same the day after. Heck, maybe that actually means the government should be able to use them in a crisis - it already uses their airplanes for airlift capability in wartime. Anyone know how much freight, exactly, FedEx delivers in a city in a day?

    Edit: developing that a little more...

    FedEx's main hub is in Memphis. Using a company like FedEx eliminates mobilization delay - FedEx is always mobilized. A warehouse could be bulit next to their main hub, and in the event of a disaster, they could ship the contents of that warehouse to any city in the country in a matter of hours. Part of the problem with these prepositioned stockpiles is that I don't have a lot of confidence in the government's ability to train people to get something like this done. And of course, part of that is simply that no training can ever match reality - this is something that shipping companies do every day, and making the transition would be utterly seamless for them.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2005
  12. Sep 3, 2005 #11

    LURCH

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    I think that, as a NextellTM customer, I am going to encourage my phone service provider to speed up their change-over to a more satellite based system. Most disasters, whether fire or flood or weather, will immediately knockout telephone lines and cell phone towers. If cell phones bounced off a satellite rather than a tower, the average person in the affected area would still be able to communicate. Until then, emergency response should include some kind of AWACS aircraft to solidify the C&C on-site with both the units in the theater and HS in DC.
     
  13. Sep 3, 2005 #12
    All cities should have satellite phones on hand for emergencies. Extras could be deliverd using the system that Russ is proposing.
     
  14. Sep 3, 2005 #13

    Astronuc

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    Go for it Russ! I have seen curriculum in Engineering or Technology Management. Engineers should consider such courses/programs. It does not good to have accountants and managers without engineering experience managing companies which specialize in science and technology. That is pretty much what happened to Westinghouse in the 1980's. The upper management were business types who bled the technical divisions of their capital. Then they gambled several billion dollars on various financial ventures - and lost more than $5 billion. That basically trashed the company and then they laid-off people, and killed R&D and the rest is a sad history. Several Westinghouse divisions, which were deemed unprofitable or unviable, went off on their own (they were spun-off and various managers bought in). Those divisions became very profitable ventures once they got out from under Westinghouse corporate management.

    You may be right. But I think there should be a thread somewhere on engineering management.
     
  15. Sep 3, 2005 #14

    LURCH

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    Also, I think that from now on, a millitary presence will have to be part of every disaster relief plan (unfortunately). Don't know for sure, but I bet the fact that rescue workers were being shot at played a roll in delaying the distribution of aid. I know that if I were a cop I would expect to be shot at by looters, but a rescue worker, a firefighter, or a civil servant transporting food and water into the region probably didn't foresee this kind of resistance. While watching the news, I noticed that as soon as the national gaurd arrived in an area and quelled the shooting, convoys of food and water and workers came in within 20-30 minutes.
     
  16. Sep 3, 2005 #15

    Astronuc

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    And don't forget UPS.

    Take Fred Smith's (founder of FedEx) and expand it to emergency response infrastructure.

    And what about the Military Base Closures? Well there is the basis of the emergency infrastructure. There are airports there, there are storage facilities already distributed throughout the country - turn them into an emergency infrastructure!

    Check this out - http://www.defenselink.mil/brac/

    BRAC 2005 Closure and Realignment Impacts by State
    http://www.defenselink.mil/brac/pdf/Appendix_C_FinalUpdated.pdf

    Write your Congressional representative and Senators!

    In some cases, bases are turned over to private developers for developement into commercial and residential districts, which is fine, but we perhaps need to preserve some bases for ER infrastructure.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2005
  17. Sep 3, 2005 #16

    Cliff_J

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    Communication could be addressed in other ways too, I'm thinking something like pyschological operations where they could print up flyers with instructions on locations (like a high school or sports arena) where aid will be given. Then drop the flyers from a plane like is done during operations. The ballon idea mentioned in the other thread is an excellent one too. That would assist those who are mobile, and could be done before the event. Also just running vehicles up and down the street with loudspeakers delivering important news, and promoting public education for baygen-esque wind up radios or other means of getting information out to people.

    For the crews in the recovery operations, have sat images and topographical maps of an area used to construct maps of the afflicted area to hand out to teams. I watched a show where some of this was implemented with GPS handheld devices for the WTC recovery since the landscape was so changed and so many people where from other areas that it was unfamiliar territory. If coordinated with the above flyers for communication and in disasters with advance notice then some rudimentary form of record keeping and schedule of areas to be serviced would be managable.

    The strategic disaster relief supply! Maybe modify and combine some of the great ideas above, that we could implement the 3 sites holding the first line of relief setup with heavy lift cargo planes with supplies on high mobility HUMVEEs for immediate relief, and then the truck/train based system for secondary relief or something like it. And if on military sites it would only be a small logistical problem to allow the supplies to be in rotation with those being used by active staff to keep the shelf life and waste within reason, if kept on a civilian site like near a FedEx location or a closed base, those problems might increase.

    There already high-power 2-way radios already in use by pretty much every rescue operation, but in 9/11 the problem was they were not compatible, correct? I would think a system could be created to help manage all the different systems to allow cross-platform communication that could also be tied into a cellular infrastructure. That way either could act as a backup to the other in case of poor weather that may hamper satellite signals or terrain that causes issues with radio signals.

    I also think there should be accountability for the people in charge. There are reports already coming out of the katrina operation of various cities or sheriff departments that were explicitly told not to try to assist even when they had crews already on the road who were told to turn around and head home. And while I agree our coast guard and others performing rescue operations are doing a magnificent job even though they have a daunting task, the reports of success with the humanitarian efforts of delivering food and water are poor respresentations of what was being shown on news networks.

    So if we have embeded reporters with our military during their actions, a coordinater who operates with/like the media to help direct assistance would be leveraging their abilities and go a long way to getting the job done. And would also provide public accountability for the people in charge of running the operations. For a sheriff or govenor in elected office the implications would be clear, but I don't know if it would apply as much to an appointed person.
     
  18. Sep 3, 2005 #17
    You are right, but I can't see any such thing ever actually taking place. Bureaucrats would fight the idea with incredible ferocity, and threaten to take down all around them if we didn't acquiesce.


    You are right also, the bureaucrats are more important, but they are also often much of the problem (The reason is rather complex.)! I'd consider them part of the infrastructure simply because they are responsible for much of the infrastructure's function.

    I agree!

    Does this include the politics that are internal to the various concerned agencies and bureaucracies?

    I've been associated with overnight packages that have arrived a week late, or disappeared altogether.

    I wish you lots of luck! I can't see a business adding any capability that costs more and doesn't add a guaranteed equal amount in return.

    Good idea. Also, the communications systems of the different agencies should be interoperable!

    Amen! And many other examples too (not just engineering - - all companies require subject knowledge [or at the very least, deep interest] of their "leaders")! We can find many companies trashed by professional 'managers' with no understanding of their companies. How about Bendix, or Apple (before the return of Jobs)?

    I'd say the lawlessness played a big role in the delay and confusion - - - but then it should have been expected to if given a chance. Criminals always look for the opportunity to take advantage of the situation, and what better opportunity than just after a major disaster, We have plenty precedent for it. Whenever they feel that they can get away with it, we should expect this group to assert themselves. This should always be included in the initial planning and preparation.

    One last thing here: How about the rebuilding? Should we discuss that here? Generally I am strongly against helping people to go back and rebuild in a disaster-prone area. That's too much like expecting the taxpayer to subsidize other peoples gambling. There are, however, five or six cities that I feel are exceptions. These mean too much to the character, prestige and/or functioning of the nation to abandon. One, of course, is New York, and also on this list I include New Orleans. Without it we'd lose a lot. I would, however impose and enforce some very strict rules as conditions for rebuilding. In the end, it would have to be a better place, all around, including the capability for dealing with the likely disasters. One of the conditions is that it be defined (and accepted by the inhabitants) as a "National City", with much of it becoming an asset of the entire nation (but still have local control).

    KM
     
  19. Sep 3, 2005 #18

    Astronuc

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    Maybe we need a separate thread on rebuilding New Orleans.

    After all it is significant Port at the mouth of the Mississippi River through which grain is shipped for export. It is hard to compete economically with barges and ships.

    Other ports could be used, but then storage and transfer facilities would have to be constructed, and those ports would have to deal with increased congestion.

    Some parts of New Orleans have to be rebuilt or repaired.

    The railroads down there apparently got hosed pretty good. There is a lot of interchange between UP from TX and LA, with the CSX and NS, and that is at a standstill.
     
  20. Sep 6, 2005 #19
    Since the 2 most likely natural disasters, hurricane and earthquake are also most likely to hit on the coasts, I would locate the depots inland 500-1000 miles. There would be less of a chance of the depot being destroyed or unavailable. This would also put the supplies closer if disaster struck the middle of the country.
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2005
  21. Sep 8, 2005 #20
    Great thread, guys!
    http://www.cityofno.com/portal.aspx?portal=46&tabid=26
    As this shows, though, a plan is nothing without the personnel and the will to implement it. I fear that the weakness in this kind of endeavour is that the very people that are charged with implementing the plan are it's biggest weakness.
    JMHO
     
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