Last year's Atlantic hurricane season was the third in a row to qualify as "above-average" with respect to both total storms and total destruction. The eight hurricanes that made landfall in the Americas included Hurricane Michael, the first Category-5 storm to hit U.S. soil, and caused a combined $50 billion in damages.

In what's become an annual tradition, DHL has published a predictive and prescriptive report to help organizations learn from last year and prepare their supply chains for the extreme weather ahead. "Companies should brace themselves," the report reads, "for up to four major hurricanes in the Americas and 10 major typhoons in East Asia."

Leveraging Resilience360, its cloud-based risk management platform, DHL identifies a number of manufacturing and logistics hubs that could experience could experience considerable disruption over the next several months. Pensacola, Tampa, and Miami each look especially vulnerable. What's more, disruptions in these areas "may cause ripple effects through not just national but also international supply lines."

2017's Hurricane Maria ravaged public health supply chains throughout Puerto Rico for several months. DHL warns that this year's storms could wreak similar havoc for the region's pharmaceutical and medical device industries.

In addition to identifying high-risks regions and industries, DHL offers a series of short and long-term recommendations for mitigating hurricanes' impact and preparing a speedy, effective response.

Short-Term Disaster Preparedness

  • Keep abreast of forecasts: Both regional and national agencies provide forecasts round-the-clock. DHL encourages supply chain managers to develop systems that ensure they receive advanced warnings. With these, they'll have plenty of time to engage relevant suppliers, assess potential risks, and rework operations as necessary. 
  • Identify vulnerable suppliers: When storms are approaching, businesses need to know which links in their supply chain are vulnerable. Attending to storm trajectories will help them prioritize their efforts and make strategic adjustments. Supply chain managers should also identify opportunities to leverage alternate routes and reschedule essential shipments. 
  • Stock up: A storm will invariably mean damage to roads and disruptions to rail lines. It's essential that businesses optimize their inventory ahead of hurricanes to mitigate the effects of these factors. Pharmaceutical organizations should also consider shipping temperature-sensitive and perishable goods to alternative, safer locations. 
  • Establish communication systems: It's entirely possible that a hurricane or tropical storm will lead to extended power outages. That's why it's so important to establish back-up channels for communicating with key suppliers and stakeholders. A CB radio, for example, will keep businesses connected in any weather. Don't forget to charge devices ahead of time, stock up on batteries, and set up backup generators as necessary. 

Long-Term Disaster Preparedness

  • Test plans ahead of time: The best plan in the world won't do you any good if your team isn't prepared to carry it out. Before a natural disaster strikes, take time to ensure your plans are well-documented and that every member of your team is familiar with their role. This way, you'll identify any gaps or weaknesses and address them before it's too late. 
  • Leverage mapping tools: DHL advises organizations to make use of mapping and survey tools to boost visibility throughout their logistics networks. These can help businesses assess their partners' preparedness and locate alternative routes, suppliers, and hubs. 
  • Diversify you supplier network: "Companies," the report reads, "can consider diversifying supplier, manufacturing, and distribution locations." Establishing these alternate locations will greatly reduce the chances of a production halt or other sweeping disruption. 
  • Optimize supplier relationships: Organizations that build strong, strategic partnerships with their logistics providers enjoy access to a dependable source of on-the-ground intelligence. These providers will leverage this intelligence before, during, and in the wake of natural disasters to minimize risk and disruption. 
Hurricane season just started. Is your organization prepared? 

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