Facility Location in Humanitarian Relief

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International Journal of Logistics: Research and Applications Vol. 11, No. 2, April 2008, 101–121

Facility location in humanitarian relief
University of Washington, Industrial Engineering, Box 352650, Seattle, WA 98195-2650, USA In this study, we consider facility location decisions for a humanitarian relief chain responding to quick-onset disasters. In particular, we develop a model that determines the number and locations of distribution centres in a relief network and the amount of relief supplies to be stocked at each distribution centre to meet the needs of people affected by the disasters. Our model, which is a variant of the maximal covering location model, integrates facility location and inventory decisions, considers multiple item types, and captures budgetary constraints and capacity restrictions. We conduct computational experiments to illustrate how the proposed model works on a realistic problem. Results show the effects of pre- and post-disaster relief funding on relief system’s performance, specifically on response time and the proportion of demand satisfied. Finally, we discuss the managerial implications of the proposed model. Keywords: Humanitarian relief chains; Emergency logistics; Facility location problem



The numbers of natural disasters and the people affected by disasters have increased over recent years. The average annual number of disasters during 2000–2004 was 55% higher than during 1995–1999, and disasters affected 33% more people during 2000–2004 than during 1995–1999 (IFRC 2005). The number of people affected by disasters continued to rise in 2005; there was an 18% increase in disasters, and 157 million people – seven million more than in 2004 – required immediate assistance, were evacuated, injured or lost their livelihoods (ISDR 2006). The trends in the number and impact of disasters and the massive scale of recent global relief efforts have brought growing attention to the need for effective and efficient disaster response operations. The objective of disaster response in the humanitarian relief chain is to rapidly provide relief (emergency food, water, medicine, shelter, and supplies) to areas affected by large-scale emergencies, so as to minimize human suffering and death (Beamon and Balcik, forthcoming). Therefore, the design and operation of the relief chain play significant roles in achieving an effective and efficient response. Although logistics is central to disaster response activities, for years, the aid sector’s regard for logistics has been viewed as a necessary expense rather than an important strategic component of their work (Beamon and Kotleba 2006a). Only recently have humanitarian relief organizations begun to understand the criticality and importance of relief chain management on the success of disaster relief operations (Van Wassenhove 2006). *Corresponding author. Email: benita@u.washington.edu

International Journal of Logistics: Research and Applications ISSN 1367-5567 print/ISSN 1469-848X online © 2008 Taylor & Francis http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals DOI: 10.1080/13675560701561789


B. Balcik and B. M. Beamon

Beamon (2004), Thomas and Kopczak (2005), and Van Wassenhove (2006) describe the unique characteristics of the disaster relief environment and compare and contrast humanitarian relief chains and commercial supply chains. There are fundamental differences between commercial supply chains and humanitarian relief chains in terms of their strategic goals, customer and demand characteristics, and environmental factors. The dominating characteristics that bring additional complexity and unique challenges to relief chain design and management that are most pertinent to our study are: • unpredictability of demand, in terms of timing, location, type, and size, • suddenly-occurring demand in very large amounts and short lead times for a wide variety of supplies, • high stakes associated with adequate and...
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