GRI Faculty Affiliate joins committee tasked with capturing lessons learned from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria | Global Resilience Institute

A satellite image from the Naval Research Laboratory shows Hurricane Harvey approaching the Texas coast, Aug. 25, 2017. Harvey made landfall as a Category 4 storm, bringing fierce winds and heavy rain. Photo by: Navy photo | VIRIN: 170825-N-N0101-502A.JPG
A satellite image from the Naval Research Laboratory shows Hurricane Harvey approaching the Texas coast, Aug. 25, 2017. Harvey made landfall as a Category 4 storm, bringing fierce winds and heavy rain. [U.S. Navy Photo]
Northeastern University Professor and Global Resilience Institute (GRI) Faculty Affiliate Dr. Özlem Ergun has been appointed to a committee tasked with capturing key lessons about supply and distribution networks under strain during Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

The FEMA-sponsored committee, established by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, and the Chair of Policy and Global Affairs (PGA), will address questions such as:

  • What was the state and knowledge of the pre-incident networks and capacity of critical supply chains, distribution systems, and infrastructure?
  • How were these systems impacted by the storms and how did subsequent response actions produce further effects on network integrity and operations?
  • What are the network structures, linkages, and/or behavior most susceptible to effective intervention?
  • How can supply chain systems be strengthened in the short term to be efficient in day-to-day operations and adaptable to sustain integrated disaster and humanitarian supply chain operations during catastrophic events?

At the close of the 18-month project, the committee will produce and release a report which:

  1. Describes how the supply systems were impacted by or during Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria in terms of commonalities and differences among effects seen in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.
  2. Identifies crucial interdependencies, nodes, or key sub-systems within the supply chain system that have the potential to amplify or constrain supply chain function, operations or resilience.
  3. Presents options or recommendations to build robust supply chains, distribution systems, and infrastructure that operate in ways that day-to-day operations can adopt and that can be integrated with disaster and humanitarian supply chains during catastrophic event operation

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria wreaked havoc in the Caribbean and portions of the United States during the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane season, one of the most destructive and costly on record. Each of the storms was so significant that the World Meteorological Organization’s Region IV Hurricane Committee officially retired the names, replacing them with Harold, Idalia, and Margot for when the six-year cycle of names repeats in 2023. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a total of 86 names have been retired since storm naming began in 1953, including these four latest additions.

For the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane season which began June 1, NOAA’s forecasters have predicted a 70%  likelihood of 10 to 16 named storms, with 5-9 of those possibly becoming hurricanes, including 1 to 4 major hurricanes with winds of 111 mph or higher.

“Preparing ahead of a disaster is the responsibility of all levels of government, the private sector and the public,” said FEMA Deputy Administrator for Resilience Daniel Kaniewski in May. “It only takes one storm to devastate a community so now is the time to prepare.”

Dr. Özlem Ergun’s research focuses on the design and management of large-scale networks and she has developed a decision support tool that can analyze data inputted after a disaster and provide immediate recommendations for prioritizing relief efforts. Dr Ergun has worked with humanitarian organizations around the world, including: UN WFP, IFRC, CARE USA, FEMA, USACE, CDC, AFCEMA, and MedShare International. She is also a member of a GRI-funded Seed Grant team, working to develop models and algorithms to aid National Geospatial Intelligence Agency analysts in detecting anomalies in the location and movement of goods in the global supply chain.

The PGA committee will be chaired by James G. Featherstone, President and CEO of the Los Angeles Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC). To see a full list of committee members, visit: