Based on Haitian Earthquake of 12 JAN 2010
Rodan had asked me to write up a quick outline of the logistics and other problems that the relief effort in Haiti will face. Yours truly has been on a similar mission, but nothing nearly as extreme as what is occurring in Haiti right now. I will be using Haiti for the background, in general these specifics can be extrapolated and applied to other disaster or emergency situations. This was thrown together very quickly. We know that the pre-earthquake infrastructure in Haiti was well below Western standards, so they are already starting the disaster in a terrible position.
First Hours: The earthquake hits the island of Hispaniola, there will be several hours of total and complete confusion, the 72 hour disease clock starts right now. Whatever communication infrastructure that was in Haiti is now inoperable. The American government knows it has to go in and help and calls the embassy and the Haitian government to assess if the docks are intact, can port control handle the increased traffic, can the boats get unloaded, if they can be unloaded will it clog the docks.
The military will want to know if the runway is intact, and if not, what is the longest portion of useable strip, and if air traffic control is capable of handling the massive amounts of flights that will be heading toward and leaving Haiti. How much fuel is at the airport, how much space to park planes on the tarmac, how much space to hold the supplies and people is useable at the airport. Possibly the single most important phase of this assessment is the conditions of the roads inland and a psychological evaluation of the population by day 2-4. If the roads are impassable, the supplies WILL stack up on the tarmac and on the docs and then no more supplies can be offloaded. If the roads are blocked and there is no way to get water from the docks to inland then all of the desalination that the US Navy can muster is a pointless exercise. There must be space to put materiel.
Orders for movement from CONUS are issued, the Americans are on their way. Confusion reigns in Haiti.
Day 2: Aircraft arrive at the airport and begin to offload, this is where space on the tarmac and in the warehouses becomes a premium. We can assume that the airport has no auto gas so arrangements have to be made for mechanical offloading and movement of pallets loads of goods. With each aircraft, more and more square feet are used up. During all of this, a survey of the roads and civil situation is occurring. Military will have to be already there to protect the supplies that have been offloaded. They will have to be on the convoys out to the affected areas as well. Looting may begin as the shock of the event wears off. If the looting is not quelled immediately and with force, the society may end up spiraling out of control.
The corpses of the dead have to be isolated NOW. They should be burned as soon as possible. Mass graves can be used, but incineration is the only way to avoid disease.
Day 3: If the docs are open and can handle the traffic, see airport operations on Day 2. In this case, the docs are useless and the ships cannot get in to offload because the cranes and port facilities have been obliterated. Ship born supplies are pointless right now, but ships will continue to head toward Haiti in the hopes that the materiel can get offloaded in the future. By this point, senior officials will arrive and do photo-op. Military will probably have to do another show of force somewhere very public to warn the looters and criminals again and to assure the population that there is security and that there will be help.
The docs are out of commission. Therefore, more aid will have to be flown in, putting more pressure on the airport and ground crews until a solution can be found to offload ships either elsewhere in Haiti or in the Dominican Republic where supplies can then be driven in if the roads are passable, or flown in and dropped via helicopter, placing even more stress on the air traffic control system. Aid flow is then already halved because of the collapsed ports.
Logistical control is difficult by this time if only one airport is open and there is no way to deliver supplies away from the local area. Flow control will revert backward in the chain to the next airports up the chain like Miami, Orlando, New Orleans. What will occur is that items that are needed on the ground in Haiti are stuck on the ground, off the island, and they cant be flown in until there is more room on the tarmac in Haiti. The goods have to flow in and out of the terminal point of the chain…all of the aid in the World is useless if it is sitting on a tarmac.
Day 4+ The tipping point: It is at this point that we see what the society is made of. Does everyone work together or is it anarchy? Will it be every man for himself, or will there be some order? Can the supplies make it form the airport to points inland? Have the roads been opened? What are the people doing, can they be organized to help? Can they be trusted to help. Security of the supplies and delivery over even marginal roads must begin to occur immediately or more pole will die from infection than died in the
The Human body can survive great lengths of time without food, it cannot survive very long without water. The sanitary conditions in Haiti were questionable at best before the earthquake, they are non existent now. The water, unless it comes from deep wells will be contaminated. The irony is that the poorest people that live inland and have their own water and food will be the least impacted by the destruction. Clean water and clean people are the key. Any exposed non-treated water, pooled water, human waste, and corpses, that have not been incinerated are now one giant disease vector. 72+ hours have passed, the microbes are now on the march and have multiplied rapidly, the 90F temperatures help the microbes greatly. People with skin breaching injuries will now show begin to show signs of massive infections. The non wounded will begin to get ill as well from the death soup that they have been drinking and walking around in.
The list of diseases that occur in this situation are as follows: malaria, measles, dissentary, hepatitis A, B, and C, Aids, Cryptosporidiosis, Enteroviruses, Escherichia coli (E. Coli), Leptospirosis, Legionnaires’ disease, MRSA, Norovirus, Rotavirus, Shigellosis, Tetanus, Toxoplasmosis, Tuberculosis, Cholera, West Nile, Giardiasis, and the list goes on and on.
I hope this helps with the understanding of what is occurring in Haiti. Pray for them.
American Red Cross