, Volume 129, Issue 1-4, pp 217-245

Emergency Logistics Planning in Natural Disasters

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Logistics planning in emergency situations involves dispatching commodities (e.g., medical materials and personnel, specialised rescue equipment and rescue teams, food, etc.) to distribution centres in affected areas as soon as possible so that relief operations are accelerated. In this study, a planning model that is to be integrated into a natural disaster logistics Decision Support System is developed. The model addresses the dynamic time-dependent transportation problem that needs to be solved repetitively at given time intervals during ongoing aid delivery. The model regenerates plans incorporating new requests for aid materials, new supplies and transportation means that become available during the current planning time horizon. The plan indicates the optimal mixed pick up and delivery schedules for vehicles within the considered planning time horizon as well as the optimal quantities and types of loads picked up and delivered on these routes.

In emergency logistics context, supply is available in limited quantities at the current time period and on specified future dates. Commodity demand is known with certainty at the current date, but can be forecasted for future dates. Unlike commercial environments, vehicles do not have to return to depots, because the next time the plan is re-generated, a node receiving commodities may become a depot or a former depot may have no supplies at all. As a result, there are no closed loop tours, and vehicles wait at their last stop until they receive the next order from the logistics coordination centre. Hence, dispatch orders for vehicles consist of sets of “broken” routes that are generated in response to time-dependent supply/demand.

The mathematical model describes a setting that is considerably different than the conventional vehicle routing problem. In fact, the problem is a hybrid that integrates the multi-commodity network flow problem and the vehicle routing problem. In this setting, vehicles are also treated as commodities. The model is readily decomposed into two multi-commodity network flow problems, the first one being linear (for conventional commodities) and the second integer (for vehicle flows). In the solution approach, these sub-models are coupled with relaxed arc capacity constraints using Lagrangean relaxation. The convergence of the proposed algorithm is tested on small test instances as well as on an earthquake scenario of realistic size.