How Hazard Maps Can Help You Get Your New iPhone on Time News Feed

By JANINE MANS

June 9, 2015—Many goods we use daily are made of components produced along long, complex supply chains. Apple, for example, sources parts for its iPhones from more than 30 countries. These arrangements have many advantages but carry a large risk: an earthquake or other natural disaster in one country can easily interrupt production elsewhere.

For example, in the summer and fall of 2011, widespread flooding in Thailand created shortages of auto parts produced there. Those shortages in turn slowed auto manufacturing in Indonesia, A washed-out bridge in Thailand in 2011Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Africa, and Vietnam, even as far away as North America. The same flooding led to as much as a 30 percent contraction in global output of hard drives, causing major delays in shipments to computer makers.

The US-APEC Technical Assistance to Advance Regional Integration (US-ATAARI) Project, implemented by Nathan Associates for the U.S. government, is promoting ways to help supply chains in the Asia Pacific region withstand and recover from disasters. One approach is hazard mapping and risk modeling, which can help governments and businesses identify vulnerabilities in the supply chain, then design mitigation strategies in response.

Targeting Repairs

Hazard maps show which areas may be struck by natural disasters, and indicate which aspects of the transportation, economic, and social infrastructure might be damaged when a disaster occurs. Risk modeling builds on the hazard maps by introducing information on exposure (the people, property, and infrastructure that may be affected by the natural disaster) and vulnerability (the physical, social, economic, and environmental factors that determine a community’s ability to cope with a disaster) to paint a picture of the potential physical damage and other losses.

Seeing these spatial relationships can improve planning and can help authorities appropriately target the highest-priority repairs after a natural disaster. Targeting those repairs helps get supply chains up and running again.

From a screenshot of California's ShakeCast modelCalifornia’s ShakeCast model, for example, provides the California Department of Transportation an estimate of the impact of a seismic event on the state’s roads and bridges and a user-friendly platform to communicate this information to first responders and road maintenance workers. ShakeCast includes detailed information on the engineering specifications of the state’s roads and bridges, along with information on soil type and other geological features that affect the severity of an earthquake’s impact.  When an earthquake happens, ShakeCast can predict how that earthquake likely affected roads and bridges and enable the state to better organize its response.

Building good hazard maps is challenging, however. The data required often span multiple government agencies and, in some cases, the private sector. And not all governments in developing economies have technicians skilled enough in geographic information systems (GIS) to draw and maintain hazard maps.

To help APEC members overcome these obstacles, Nathan organized a workshop on hazard mapping and risk modeling. This US–ATAARI event, held May 4–6 in Lima, Peru, brought together representatives of disaster management agencies and ministries of transportation from 13 member economies. The participants learned the functionalities of 4 different hazard mapping approaches and developed plans to improve the use of hazard and risk mapping in their respective economies—and hopefully improve the resilience of their supply chains so that your iPhone gets delivered on time.  

Managing Associate Janine Mans is an international development practitioner with over eight years in economic policy analysis and project management. She provides technical assistance for Nathan Associates’ projects, including research and writing for program design and deliverables, and  provides guidance on contractual, financial, personnel, and procurement matters. Under the US-ATAARI Project, she manages activities involving emergency preparedness and supply chain resilience.

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