Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Logistics: The Key to Effective Response

by Stan Frank

At the American Red Cross, like in the military, “Logistics” is the branch of operations that deals with the procurement, distribution, maintenance and replacement of material and personnel.  Logistics enables all other departments to function. 

In the Greater New York Region, which serves nearly 13 million people across New York City, Long Island, the Lower Hudson Valley and Greenwich, Conn., and responds to about seven emergencies daily including home fires, floods, building collapses and more, Kathie Cayton is the Regional Manager of Logistics.

Kathie Cayton 
Kathie joined the American Red Cross nearly 5 years ago. Before becoming Greater New York Regional Manager of Logistics, she served as a Disaster Program Manager and Regional Logistics Manager for the Northeast New York Region, and Regional Logistics and Mass Care Manager for the Western/Central and Eastern New York Regions. Prior to joining the Red Cross, Kathie held senior management positions with the Girl Scouts ”Heart of Hudson” Council. 

“Our goal is to be ready for any emergency, large or small. We pre-stage equipment and supplies throughout the Greater New York Region and our team can respond rapidly to any event,” said Kathie.

Logistics oversees the following activities:

Red Cross shelter
Example of cots set up at a shelter.
When a major emergency occurs, the first thing Logistics does is identify a location that can be used as a Disaster Headquarters or Staging Area, which has adequate space and facilities to accommodate the needs of the Red Cross response. Each event presents different operational needs. For example, in response to a flood or fire in a densely populated area, a facility with a large space for cots and food service would be selected. This might be in a school gym or church or large public building. Often, Logistics will work in conjunction with a public agency such as a local OEM (Office of Emergency Management) to locate an appropriate facility.

Supplies, kits and vehicles at the Middletown warehouse.
An enormous collection of supplies and equipment is positioned across New York City, Long Island and across the Metro New York North Region. Logistics also maintains a 9000 square foot warehouse facility in Middletown, NY.  Much of the space is lined floor to ceiling with industrial shelving for storage of comfort kits, cots, blankets, clean up kits and water.   

“We also have dozens of vans, emergency response vehicles (ERVs), box trucks and tractor trailers loaded with cots, blankets, comfort kits, clean-up kits, personal supply kits, and feeding equipment all of which are stockpiled at various sites throughout the region and ready to go when and where they are needed,” said Kathie.  

Stocked trailers at Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Supplies are also strategically located at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where 10 stocked tractor trailers are ready for immediate use.

The Supply team maintains computer inventories of all New York supplies and equipment and can order additional needed inventory from National’s warehouses including the nearest warehouse in Pennsylvania. When a requisition is received, staff can quickly determine if we have the needed supplies in stock or need to draw upon National’s inventory or need to purchase or rent it from private vendors.  

Because of the wide range of emergencies and disasters the Red Cross responds to, there is often a need to procure additional supplies to meet needs specific to an event. To prepare for this contingency, the Red Cross has contracts with vendors throughout the country for the purchase or rental of things like additional cots, chairs, portable restrooms, portable showers, janitorial supplies, dumpsters, fork lifts, cars and trucks, furniture, copy services, building maintenance supplies, ready-to-eat food services and all types of medical equipment such as wheelchairs, canes, walkers, etc. If additional equipment or supplies are needed, the Red Cross has contracts with many major vendors across the region and across the county for the purchase or rental of additional vehicles, supplies or specialized products.              

In-Kind Donations
During large scale disasters, the Logistics team will often work with the Development team to develop partnerships with supply manufacturers or distributors, who may donate materials at a reduced cost or at no cost. For example, a manufacturer of work gloves may donate several cases or a truckload of its products during an emergency.

Depending on the nature of the response to a disaster or emergency, the Red Cross could utilize different types of chapter-owned or rental vehicles, including cars, SUVs, trucks, and trailers. Keeping track of all these vehicles, their usage, their location, their condition, and their drivers is a challenging job.

To manage this function, the Logistics team maintains a sophisticated computer system that tracks all vehicles at all times until they are returned to their original location.

The Logistics Team
All of the logistics functions would not be possible without the amazing Logistics staff and volunteers. Depending on the size and nature of an emergency or disaster, Kathie can draw upon her staff and a large number of Logistics volunteers who are trained and equipped to respond rapidly. 

Throughout the year, the team holds meetings, training opportunities, assists at events, participates in exercises, and last year held an ERV-Rodeo!

“To effectively respond to any emergency or disaster, you first need people with a commitment to help,” said Kathie. “To enable them to help, however, you need them to be able to access the proper equipment, supplies and materials.  At the Red Cross we provide both!  We have the people and the logistical system for them to function at the highest level. Although we hope it never occurs, we are ready for any challenge that comes our way.”

If you would like to join the Logistics Group as a volunteer, 
contact Kathie Cayton at Kathie (dot) cayton (at) redcross (dot) org

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