EIIP Virtual Forum Presentation — November 29, 2006

Local Distribution of Disaster Commodities
US Corps of Engineers Guidance and Models

Marjorie L. DeBrot
Disaster Program Manager
Office of Homeland Security, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Amy Sebring
EIIP Moderator

The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. A raw, unedited transcript is available from our archives. See our home page at http://www.emforum.org

[Welcome / Introduction]

Amy Sebring: Good morning/afternoon everyone. Thank you for joining us today. On behalf of Avagene and myself, welcome to the EIIP Virtual Forum! Our topic today is Local Distribution of Disaster Commodities, the US Corps of Engineers Guidance and Models.

Now it is my pleasure to introduce today's speaker. Marjorie DeBrot is the Disaster Program Manager for the Corps of Engineer's Office of Homeland Security at USACE HQ where her focus is on commodities and logistics. Marjorie has served with the Corps since 1974 and has worked in emergency management since 1980. Her previous position was Chief of Emergency Management in the Kansas City District.

Welcome Marjorie, and thank you for joining us today. I turn the floor over to you to start us off please.


Marjorie DeBrot: Good morning/afternoon. I appreciate the opportunity today to discuss commodity planning and tools that have been developed to assist local communities in preparing for the distribution of emergency supplies and commodities to the public from local distribution points.

The type and quantity of supplies that the public will need in the aftermath of disasters or other crisis will vary due to many factors. Experience in emergency response over the years suggests some common necessities that the public will require to meet health, safety, and lifesaving needs. They include potable water (usually bottled), packaged ice, Meals Ready to Eat (MRE) and other supplies.

In small scale disasters and in the initial hours of larger disasters, these commodities are often supplied by state and local governments, donations from industry, and volunteer agencies. When the need for commodities exceeds the states capability, under a Presidential Declaration, the state can request that FEMA provide the additional requirement. FEMA will provide commodities stored in bulk quantities at regional logistics centers in various locations, and if needed, task ESF#3 (USACE) to purchase additional quantities of ice and water.

The FEMA/USACE provided commodities are delivered to Federal Operations Staging Areas (FOSAs) and subsequently moved, as requested by the state to state-managed logistical staging areas. Once needs are identified by local communities to the State, the state in-turn supplies the local distribution points.

Distribution points must be areas that are paved, concrete, or gravel hard-stand that can withstand loads that are at load limits of national roadways. In addition to the area needed for the trucks, planning must include area for unloading, dumpsters, proper traffic flow, stockpiles, and ingress and egress for the distribution to the public.

Key Background Information
The vendors that supply bottled drinking water, packaged ice and other commodities are geared to supply their normal business clients. They minimize storage costs and personnel costs by keeping production in line with demand. In large events, commodities are provided from all over the US and Canada in order to meet the immediate demand. The same is true with the trucking industry.

When disaster strikes the commodity vendors must continue to provide supplies to their normal customers but gear up operations to support the disaster requirements. Typically a vendor will need 48 hours to ramp up for large orders. Because of these factors, the pre-positioning of commodities for a pending event is crucial.

Another key aspect of commodities planning is the restoration of power. The need for commodities is directly proportional to commercial power. During response operations the progress of power restorations must be closely monitored at the local, state and federal levels to prevent over-ordering of commodities.

The US Army Corps of Engineers, (USACE) provides predictive models of commodity needs based on hurricane winds, track of the storm, population density, and estimated number of residences without power. These models are posted to our ENGLink public website beginning 72 hours out from a potential hurricane event. The website is located at http://www.englink.usace.army.mil.

The following slide is a sample of the commodities model that was generated in support of Ernesto. Amy, Slide 1 please.

[Slide 1]

These models predict people "in need", this fact is very important for determining amount of commodities that may be required, however, this fact is useless if commodities can't be placed into the victim's hands in a timely manner.

The 2004 hurricane season proved that the ability to distribute commodities to the public is the controlling factor to determine supply, not the people "in need" as the models show. To successfully accomplish the commodity distribution mission, we must literally, "begin with the end in mind."

A local distribution plan should be developed to include pre-determined locations of distribution points, layout plans for each point, and include equipment and manpower requirements. To aid local communities in establishing Points of Distribution (PODs) USACE, FEMA and State representatives developed guidance titled Local Distribution Point Planning for Commodities. This guidance is also located on the ENGLink Public Website and available for all to use.

Another method for determining the number and also location of DPs is through Geographical Information Systems, (GIS). Through GIS you can produce a dot density map that provides a visual dot for a selected density of population. The location of the dot will provide a general start for locating a DP however, as stated before, consider all tribes, municipalities, and or major communities, having at least one DP.

The local guidance document provides suggested lay-outs, manpower and resource requirements needed to establish and run a POD and provides the community an active Microsoft Excel® spreadsheet that will assist them in determining their pre-event commodity needs based on population and will assist in determining the number of PODs that should be established to support the anticipated impacted population. A Post-Event Ordering spreadsheet is also available which will assist them in placing follow on orders for commodities.

Planning Factors
Based on past experience, a well planned and operated distribution point with one lane of traffic and 3 loading points can service 140 cars per hour. Based on a 12 hour work day, about 1,680 vehicles or 1,680 x 3 = 5000 people can be served.

  • 1 truck load of ice and water will serve 1,660 vehicles or about 5000 people
  • 1 truck load of MREs will serve 3,624 vehicles or about 10,000 people
  • 1 truck load of tarps will serve 4,400 vehicles or about 4,400 homes

The following slides are the graphics that are available for reference in the local planning guidance. The first of these shows the detail of a distribution point. . Amy, Slide 2 please.

[Slide 2]

The number and general location of most Distribution Points (DPs) will be determined by population, however most all tribes, municipalities, and or major communities will require a DP, and in some cases, several.

The number of DPs can be determined mathematically. The Excel®model shown in figure 9 in the guidance and available for download, will calculate the number of DPs required when the total number of people without commercial power is entered. The model also considers only Type III DPs which consists of a one lane operation. A Type III DP provides for 5000 people, and can handle one truck load of ice and water per day along with MREs and tarps. Therefore, for every truck load of ice or water ordered, there should be a corresponding DP or lane for off-loading.

DP operations, to include manpower and equipment, are a local responsibility. A partnership between the community and response planners is essential for the establishment of a successful distribution system that serves the public in their time of need. The most challenging resource to provide is manpower.

Each DP requires an equipment package as detailed in the planning guidance, and if you scroll down, on the slides we are about to show:

The following slide is the layout of a Type III DP. Amy, Slide 3 please.

[Slide 3]

Next is the Type II DP. Amy, Slide 4 please.

[Slide 4]

Next is the Type I DP. Amy, Slide 5 please.

[Slide 5]

If the disaster receives a Presidential Declaration, the costs for renting this equipment will qualify for Federal reimbursement. It is recommended that the planning agent, city, county or tribal agency provide the equipment to the DPs located within their area of responsibility.

Planners should work with local vendors and have agreements in place to provide the required equipment. The rates, (hourly, daily, or weekly) should be discussed with the State Emergency Management office and FEMA to get guidance on best practices. This suggested method of supplying equipment helps prevent duplication and allows for easier reimbursement.

The pre-planning of DP locations is critical to the public. This allows for the locations of the DPs to be known to the public prior to an event before communications are impacted. This also allows for route clearing priorities and route mapping to be performed during the pre-planning process in lieu of the response process.

DP Operations
The operation of a DP requires a Manager that understands the purpose, functions and requirements of a distribution point. The manager must have skills to motivate people, assure the right equipment is available, keep records on equipment usage, record information on deliveries and arrange for future deliveries based on usage.

This last slide shows the suggested organization. Amy, Slide 6 please.

[Slide 6]

I hope this introduction will assist you in your local planning efforts, and I will be happy to answer any questions you may have. I turn the floor back over to our Moderator to start us off.

Amy Sebring: Thank you very much Marjorie. Now, to proceed to your questions or comments.Again, if any of today’s attendees have had direct experience, we would like to hear your comments also.

[Audience Questions & Answers]

Johnny Gonzalez: Are Marjorie’s comments here copyrighted or anything like that? This is gold and I'd like to use it in my CEMP.

Amy Sebring: We will have a transcript later Johnny. They are not copyrighted, and there will be links to follow in the transcript.

Tricia Wachtendorf: Thanks very much for your presentation. You outline many clear and straightforward strategies toward setting up an effective DP process, but sometimes we continue to see problems in achieving these goals. Where do you most often see communities or key actors falling short in the process and, based on your experience, what can best be done to work through these problems?

Marjorie DeBrot: I believe the key will be to develop a commodity distribution plan based on potential threat and possible impacted population. If a local community can identify a site as well as personnel to work the Distribution sites ahead of time a lot of the problems that occur will be minimized.

Amy Sebring: As you noted, manpower can be a challenge. Are you aware of any communities that have used volunteer organizations to do this?

Marjorie DeBrot: I believe that most distribution sites that have been established engage volunteer organization or faith-based groups.

Shawn Jones: You mentioned manpower. Where do you get it from when you have a community that is already devastated, and the obvious manpower is doing their normal job – Public Works, Fire Fighters, ARC, etc. We see that as a major problem.

Marjorie DeBrot: With the development of a commodity plan prior to an event, the shortfalls can be identified and elevated to your state for possible assistance in locating assistance to man the DPs. The key is to identify the number of sites you will require and using the Excel® spreadsheet that is in the planning document to determine your requirements.

Amy Sebring: Marjorie, if I may follow on Jose's question, if you pre-contracted for labor, is that reimbursable?

Marjorie DeBrot: I would highly recommend that this be discussed with the State. The state will need to discuss this with FEMA. I can't speak for eligibility of cost issues.

Chuck Hagan: Staffing of the PODs is a critical factor. Many of our counties have used training we developed, to train local volunteer groups to assist under county supervision. We, the State, augment initial staffing for the first 72-hours using the Florida National Guard. The State of Florida has worked closely with the USACoE over the past years to refine these models. We have developed guidance for all our counties as an Annex to our State Unified Logistics Section Plans. It, as well as adaptation of the USACoE forecast models, can be found on our web site at www.floridadisaster.org/bpr/response/CIandLog.htm.

Marjorie DeBrot: I must agree with what Chuck has stated. USACE has worked closely with the State of Florida and has utilized many of their planning documents in formulating the Distribution Point Guidance we have posted on our website.

Curt Musgrave: On the shortfall of people to work the DP, it would be good to develop the plans in cooperation with local or state volunteer agencies. That will clue them in from the start.

Jose Holguin-veras: Thanks for your presentation. The outline you presented is adequate for cases in which the locations of PODs have been previously identified and they have not been impacted by the disaster itself. How should local governments prepare for a Katrina-like situation (widespread devastation)? Could you comment on the role of logistic training? Do you think there was adequate pre-positioning of supplies during Katrina?

Marjorie DeBrot: I believe FEMA is beginning catastrophic planning efforts and I am hopeful that guidance will be developed to aid both States and locals on these efforts. As to the role of logistics training, it is key to efficiency in the distribution process and to understanding the receiving, documentation requirements, staging operations etc.

While there was some pre-positioning of commodities for Katrina it was not enough for the magnitude of the population impacted and the number of states we were trying to supply.

Ed Lupton: A $72 million contract was awarded a company for bottled water over a 2 month period in hurricane Katrina. Large atmospheric water generators housed in trucks or on flatbeds (with power generators) could be moved into a danger zone and supply large volumes of continuous water generated from the air that is bacteria free pure water. And then they would be available for a future crisis. There would also be a great cost savings. Have you considered this water alternative?

Marjorie DeBrot: USACE has received a number of alternative methods to provide potable water. Quite often the systems are able to produce the potable water, but there is not mechanism to bottle and/or distribute.

Chuck Hagan: On the alternative water supply issue, Florida has closely evaluated alternative means of water production and distribution, but has found that systems cannot come up to meet the quantity requirements we have of 2-6 million gallons of water per day across multiple counties. The issue of packaging comes into play, as well as a water source, manpower, power requirements, fuels, etc. for the process, which is staff heavy. We find that bottled water and packaged ice is still our best solution to our events.

Perry Altadonna: Is there a DP/POD model for Urban Areas, specifically designed around pedestrian distribution?

Marjorie DeBrot: Not at present but I believe the DPs could be modified for that situation.

Kirby Felts: Marj, good to cross paths with you again. Are you having success with any particular states in using this guidance? Are there lessons learned from these states that can be leveraged in the planning process? I see that Florida would be a good place to start, based on Chuck Hagan's comments, but are there others?

Marjorie DeBrot: Yes, I believe Alabama has also had some success with regard to Distribution Point planning. I would ask Mr. Hagan if he is aware of other states.

Laura Goudreau: In Washington State, we are working on an "Adopt-A-POD" program to identify the community-based organizations to assist with locations and staffing. This program will provide training for POD staff and registering staff as emergency workers. With the hazards we face here, we do not have the 24 hour notice like for hurricanes, so the National Guard cannot fully perform the mission fast enough and local jurisdiction staff will be working other tasks. Any one interested in the program, please email me at [email protected].

Shawn Jones: South Carolina is pushing the counties to begin planning for POD, but with little guidance other than what USACE has provided.

Avagene Moore: Marjorie, I assume there are contractual agreements in place with vendors all over the country for water, ice, and other commodities needed in disasters. Is there a mechanism now in place for handling those vendors or resources that do not have a contract but wish to assist in a timely manner so they won't be turned away with needed commodities as we heard about in Katrina?

Marjorie DeBrot: The contracts that USACE have in place require us to utilize that contractor first. If and when the contractor cannot meet the requirements, we can then utilize other contractors. I can't speak on FEMA’s contract processes.

Shawn Jones: In the catastrophic planning efforts you mentioned, does that include training or Train-the-Trainer modules for the states, counties, or parishes that they can then take to a local level to train volunteers like CERT, Southern Baptist, Salvation Army, American Red Cross, Guardsmen (people), or just community volunteers?

Marjorie DeBrot: The catastrophic planning efforts are in their infancy. It is an excellent idea to formulate a training course for locals on distribution point planning and operations. Let me raise this as a possible product for us to develop.

Perry Altadonna: Has anyone (else) had direct experience in distributing commodities to Pedestrians in a large urban setting? (We are planners from NYC)

Chuck Hagan: We do have adaptations for walk-up sites called Comfort Stations in our CEMP which provide a few more services, yet serve lower numbers, than a "high speed, low drag" POD. In regards to State Contracts, we have awarded multi-vendor contracts for both water and ice, as well as maintain state owned water and ice resources. We have also developed comprehensive logistics and POD training for the counties, which can also be found on our web site. We have a 4-day State LSA Training Course, a 2-day County Logistics Course as well as a 4-hour POD course for local volunteer workers.

Laura Goudreau: I had the great opportunity to work with Chuck Hagen in FL. They have a great program there that is adaptable to other areas. I highly suggest you take a look at his logistics plans. They will provide you with an example that works (proven in multiple large events). They have greatly assisted WA state!

We are working on plans to use bus transit stations to supply commodities to those without cars.

Jim O'Brien: Because our public health folks have had to identify PODs for mass prophylaxis, we are partnered with them for commodity distribution because most of the groundwork has been laid, and we then focus on PODs as all-hazards resources, not just public health facilities. They did the population analysis, staffing and traffic plans, etc. No sense in re-inventing the wheel.

Marjorie DeBrot: Perfect.

Noel Perez: Hello everybody. Thanks Marjorie for this presentation. Could you please elaborate about the actual distribution activities during the immediate response to a large emergency? Particularly, I am interested in the movement of supplies between regional/local staging areas and the victims. What are the major challenges to these activities?

Marjorie DeBrot: The local DP manager will determine the amount of commodity needed per day and submit the request to the State. The State will determine if the need can be met from resources at the State Staging area. If there are sufficient supplies the state will dispatch the truckload to the local community. If the State Staging Area does not contain sufficient quantities the request is forwarded to the Joint Field Office, reviewed and approved by the Operations Section Chief and forwarded to the Logistics section. The supplies will then be forwarded from the Federal Staging Area either to the State Staging Area or directly to the Distribution Point depending upon the request of the State.

Amy Sebring: Marjorie, (and others here today) is there a sample local emergency operations plan appendix out there that incorporates this Corps guidance that can be adapted to our own communities? (speaking of not reinventing the wheel)

Marjorie DeBrot: I believe that as Laura indicated the State of Florida is very advanced and may have a local plan that they would like to share.

Tricia Wachtendorf: We heard reports that computer system interoperability between different levels of government presented challenges post Katrina. Can you speak to whether or not you've seen similar problems in other area with respect to logistics and supplies?

Marjorie DeBrot: I have not experienced this problem. However, I believe that alternative means of communicating needs other than via computers must be considered in the plan development.


Amy Sebring: Amy Sebring: That's all we have time for today. Thank you very much Marjorie for an excellent job. And thanks to Chuck, Laura and others for sharing their experience.

Marjorie we hope you enjoyed the experience today. Please stand by a moment while we make a couple of quick announcements.

Again, the formatted transcript will be available later today. If you are not on our mailing list and would like to get notices of future sessions and availability of transcripts, just go to our home page to Subscribe. If your organization is interested in becoming an EIIP Partner, please go to our home page and click on "Partnership for You"

Thanks to everyone for participating today. We stand adjourned but before you go, please help me show our appreciation to Marjorie for a fine job.