Friday, April 13, 2012

Emergency preparations, Part 7: Food for thought

I hadn't originally planned to cover this topic as part of my 'Emergency Preparations' series, but on reflection it fits very well into that category: so here it is.

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) recently produced a very interesting - not to mention disturbing - report examining the impact that a disruption of road transport facilities would have on cities, towns and communities (link is to an Adobe Acrobat document in .PDF format). It's well worth reading. Here's an extract showing the impact of a loss of truck transport over time.

A Timeline Showing the Deterioration of Major Industries Following a Truck Stoppage

The first 24 hours:
  • Delivery of medical supplies to the affected area will cease.
  • Hospitals will run out of basic supplies such as syringes and catheters within hours. Radiopharmaceuticals will deteriorate and become unusable.
  • Service stations will begin to run out of fuel.
  • Manufacturers using just-in-time manufacturing will develop component shortages.
  • U.S. mail and other package delivery will cease.

Within one day:
  • Food shortages will begin to develop.
  • Automobile fuel availability and delivery will dwindle, leading to skyrocketing prices and long lines at the gas pumps.
  • Without manufacturing components and trucks for product delivery, assembly lines will shut down, putting thousands out of work.

Within two to three days:
  • Food shortages will escalate, especially in the face of hoarding and consumer panic.
  • Supplies of essentials—such as bottled water, powdered milk, and canned meat—at major retailers will disappear.
  • ATMs will run out of cash and banks will be unable to process transactions.
  • Service stations will completely run out of fuel for autos and trucks.
  • Garbage will start piling up in urban and suburban areas.
  • Container ships will sit idle in ports and rail transport will be disrupted, eventually coming to a standstill.

Within a week:
  • Automobile travel will cease due to the lack of fuel. Without autos and busses, many people will not be able to get to work, shop for groceries, or access medical care.
  • Hospitals will begin to exhaust oxygen supplies.

Within two weeks:
  • The nation’s clean water supply will begin to run dry.

Within four weeks:
  • The nation will exhaust its clean water supply and water will be safe for drinking only after boiling. As a result gastrointestinal illnesses will increase, further taxing an already weakened health care system.

There's much more at the link. It's well worth your time to read the full report.

Some will argue that the ATA has published this report as a 'scaremongering' tactic, to persuade more people that the trucking industry needs and deserves subsidies, protection or whatever. It may be used in campaigns for such benefits, but I think it's much more than just a marketing or political campaign tool. The facts and figures provided tally pretty closely with what I've learned from other sources. The report also provides a case study of the impact of the 9/11 border closures between Michigan and Canada, which cost the auto industry millions of dollars because parts could not be delivered between plants. I've heard that story from other sources too, and if anything they paint an even bleaker picture of its impact than does the ATA report.

Think about it like this. There may not be a country-wide disruption of truck transport: but what if your area, or your State, was affected in that way? An earthquake, or flood, or landslide, or major fire, or other natural disaster might cut major road and rail links; a crisis elsewhere (e.g. a hurricane on the Gulf Coast) might disrupt the supply of essential goods and services to your community (e.g. petroleum products or natural gas); etc. Such a disruption might produce the effects mentioned above in your area, for at least a few days, even up to a couple of weeks if worst came to worst. If you ever needed additional motivation to establish at least a minimal emergency reserve supply, covering a couple of weeks to a month, this information should be just what you need!



Anonymous said...

The ATA reports includes this: "Consider a truck stoppage in the states around Washington, D.C. The federal government
will be slowed down within a week and could grind to a halt within two or three weeks." ("Other Effects," page 6, paragraph 4)

If there's a way we could orchestrate such a truck stoppage within the Capital Beltway which surrounds Washington, D.C. I would gladly contribute some dollars to the effort. To whom do I mail my check?

Johnny D. said...

Some food for thought here, Peter. Thanks.

We are "preppers" or whatever folks want to call us these days. We have to be - we live in hurricane country - but we've ramped it up a bit past just a few days food and the like.

Thanks again for the link - I'm going to make a couple of adjustments based on the information.

Anonymous said...

Saw this scenario play out up close and personal here in New Orleans after Katrina.
Sentencing last week of cops who stayed behind to try to control the anarchy and made an incorrect threat assessment - 40-60 years in prison. No sane cop will try to fight chaos in the future.

Anonymous said...

The "Great Floods" on the Missouri back in 1993 and later on the Mississippi disrupted traffic so much that some of the auto companies were having parts flown from Mexico in chartered jets in order to meet their production schedules. If more than a few bridges and interchanges go out, even chartering aircraft won't do it. And that only works for small, very valuable stuff, not basic necessities. (That said, where I live, radiopharmaceuticals are flown in already.)


CenTexTim said...

There's a saying that's been around for a while: no city is more than three days away from anarchy. Same idea - after three days without fresh supplies, the existing stock of a given area will be gone.

The UK version is "nine meals from anarchy." Similar concept.