Weak Links and New Norms

Weak Links and New Norms

The containers arrived in the island but they piled up because the trucks that usually come to pick up the contents did not or could not come. Roads were filled with debris or were damaged or flooded. At the same time, there was complete communication breakdown so no one was sure what roads could be used and places that could be reached. Then there was no electricity that affected everything from atm withdrawal to pumping gasoline. You’ll need to stack up for 45 days worth of supply rather than the recommended 7 or 14 days– food, water, cash, gasoline, medicine, and others. You’ll need several back-up solutions to ensure communication, electricity and other critical infrastructure. FEMA used formulas to determine how much goods to send to Puerto Rico but there was a breakdown on where these goods should go."

These are paraphrased words that serve as lessons from the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Business continuity plans and alignment in flow of goods and services will be required to prevent a repeat of the Puerto Rico experience.  "Business" does not mean commercial establishments alone but also governments.  Businesses and government agencies have to analyze, design, and manage continuity at different levels - individually, interactively and collaboratively. Scenarios have to be anticipated to get an island, like Oahu, ready for a system of timely and responsible actions from different government and business entities. A multi-entity chain of operation can only be as strong as its weakest link. 

A June 13 visit with the risk management team of the Crowley Maritime Corporation, in San Juan, was particularly insight-laden. It was clear that there will be new norms that have to be accepted in the future. First, businesses and government alike have to be nimble in their operations and decision-making. For example, Crowley changed from its 4x per week regular schedule to seven days a week in order to bring in both commercial and FEMA shipments. Second, union and non-union workers have to be prepared to do more than their regular job descriptions. There is also a need for all to be educated about safety in different disaster contexts. The attendance of Crowley’s employees is remarkable in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria –more than 60% returned to work a day after the event and and over 90% on the 2nd day. The average weekly work hours increased from 40 hours to 100 hours for weeks. Employees realized that the entire island depended on them and the company. In turn, Crowley opened its facility to families of employees for needs like food, water, laundry and others. Not all businesses or government entities will have the inherent strategic position that Crowley has to get employees back to work. Businesses and government can examine what employee needs can be supported in a post-Maria like situation. Third, it pays to invest in  efficient and "disaster-resistant" technology systems. Crowley invested in cranes that withstood 170mph winds and also allowed faster loading of goods. Finally, international maritime network is an asset to island communities. In the case of Crowley, additional freight ships from other ports helped bring the extra volume of needed goods.

Crowley communicates its readiness to help the community  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=quU34vu6llc

The Crowley San Juan team is honored.  The press release offers some performance metrics. http://www.crowley.com/News-and-Media/Press-Releases/Puerto-Rico-Team-Earns-Thomas-Crowley-Award-the-Company-s-Highest-Honor-in-Recognition-of-Hurricane-Maria-Relief-Efforts

Photo 1: New cranes from Ireland that were purchased long before Hurricane Maria.


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