Within the current case studies related to supply chain disruption and risk mitigation are how specific companies, specifically Wal-Mart and other home improvement retailers such as Home Depot were able to successfully respond to the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina that struck the United States Gulf Coast region in 2005. Their response exceeded even that of U.S. federal disaster assistance agencies.

It goes without stating that consistency over time and over multiple events is the ultimate determinant of risk mitigation.

Our U.S. and foreign based readers may be aware that the Louisiana region surrounding Baton Rouge has been impacted by severe amounts of participation and widespread flooding. Thousands of families, many whom relocated from the 2005 flooding around New Orleans as a result of Katrina, had since relocated to this area, and once again have their lives terribly disrupted. Our hearts go out to all of them.

The New Orleans Picayune Times reported last week that in the aftermath of the flooding, trucks from Wal-Mart and United Parcel Service (UPS) were once again among the first to deliver much needed relief and re-building supplies.

According to the report, Wal-Mart’s Emergency Operations Center in Bentonville once again began preparations for response when meteorological conditions indicated storm conditions and high participation levels would continue. A Wal-Mart spokeswoman indicated to NOLA that eight Wal-Mart stores were closed because of flooding levels and damage but as of August 18, five were able to re-open. A distribution center in Hammond Louisiana that supports store replenishment needs in across Louisiana as well as South Mississippi remained opened. The retailer has also prepared for the pending shifts in recovery, anticipating the standard post-disaster need for diapers, bottled water, cleaning and other supplies.

A UPS spokesperson told the Times that that all of its distribution centers were able to sustain operations throughout the heavy rains and flooding. However, facilities supporting four cities: Baton Rouge, Port Allen, Jeanerette and Gonzales experienced limited capabilities. Similar to Wal-Mart, UPS began re-routing packages destined to south Louisiana late in the week as a staff of five company meteorologists in Louisville continued to monitor weather patterns. Because so many residences are unoccupied or remain flooded, UPS’s systems are being flagged and held for delivery delays until they are claimed or dispositioned be designated recipients. UPS is further preparing to initially focus on resuming high-priority deliveries, for example prescription medicines. The UPS spokesperson indicated that the carrier is further helping to coordinate transportation of trailers for the American Red Cross.

Planning and preparedness is always fundamental in supply chain risk mitigation.