“LOGISTICS MAKES THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE.” WHEN
we first heard that statement some 25 years ago, it seemed a bit of
a reach. Certainly, we knew that a well-honed logistics operation
could make a business more profitable and make its customers
happier—but making the world a better place? Really?
The press announcements that fill our inbox each day attest to
that. Over the years, we’ve watched what was initially a trickle of
bulletins about charitable doings by various industry players swell
to a torrent. (Nowadays, we even highlight some of these good
deeds in “Logistics gives back,” a regularly occurring feature of
our magazine.) But in this firmament of chari-table-minded folks, one star shines particularly
bright. It’s a 12-year-old named ALAN.
ALAN, or the American Logistics Aid
Network, was formed following Hurricane
Katrina, which ravaged the Gulf Coast in 2005.
The network, which serves as a conduit between
the logistics community and disaster relief
agencies needing supply chain support (think
transportation services, warehouse space, or
material handling equipment), was the brainchild of a caring soul and logistics executive
named Jock Menzies.
Sadly, Menzies died in a tragic accident in
2013. Upon his death, the torch was passed
to his very capable colleague, Kathy Fulton,
another caring soul who has worked tirelessly to keep the flame
lit. This year, however, that job proved particularly challenging—
thanks to a series of decidedly unfortunate events.
The year began with ALAN still supporting recovery activities
for a number of 2016 disasters, including flooding in Louisiana
and Missouri, Hurricane Matthew, wildfires in Tennessee, and
tornadoes in Georgia. After the activity died down, things were relatively calm for the spring and early summer. Then came August.
On Aug. 24, ALAN began mobilizing in preparation for Hurricane
Harvey, which slammed into the Texas coast the following day.
Harvey was followed in quick succession by hurricanes Irma and
Maria, putting ALAN to the ultimate test.
“The 2017 hurricane season was unprecedented,” says Fulton.
“Other seasons may have had more storms, and other hurricanes
may have delivered more damage to larger areas and affected more
people, but the intensity of Harvey, Irma, and Maria, across three
different regions, with different types of supply
chain disruptions in rapid succession, meant that
responding agencies never got to take a breath.”
From a logistics perspective, each hurricane pre-
sented a unique set of challenges. “Harvey was
about access—getting around flooded areas to
deliver supplies,” explains Fulton. “Irma, coming
right on Harvey’s heels, was about individual citi-
zens and hoarding behavior that causes things like
grocery and fuel supply chain stress. Maria was, and
continues to be, about infrastructure—disruption
occurred at every point of the
supply chain because all of the
supporting components for sup-
ply chain activities, like power,
water, communications, roads,
ports, and people, were them-
Throughout it all, ALAN
and its members stood by to
respond to urgent appeals from
relief agencies in need of logis-
tics support. Over a three-month
period, ALAN members filled
requests for trucks, cargo ves-
sels, planes, and warehouses, and
even helicopters and powerboats.
Although it will likely be several weeks before we
have a final tally of ALAN’s activities in 2017—
Fulton notes that the immediate work at hand
hasn’t allowed time to gather the precise details—
the total promises to be impressive. “My gut tells
me that the last three months have exceeded the last
three years of activity,” she says.
Those three months won’t be notable only for the
unprecedented level of activity, however. They may
also be remembered as the time in which ALAN
truly came of age. Jock Menzies would be proud.
Group Editorial Director
BY MITCH MAC DONALD, GROUP EDITORIAL DIRECTOR outbound
The Year of ALAN