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Disaster Transport Recovery: A Collaborative University-Community Model

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Transport systems play a critical role in maintaining supply chains for effective disaster recovery. The March 2020 COVID-19 lockdown coincided with a magnitude 5.7 earthquake in Salt Lake City, Utah, causing supply chain disruptions across the region. The research team worked with local agencies and transportation organizations to use the event and the community’s response to assess the issues local business owners were experiencing and the actions they took to address the disruption. Their new report assesses the potential economic impact of a catastrophic earthquake in the Salt Lake City area with an eye to helping small and medium-sized businesses increase their resilience.

Divya Chandrasekhar and Sua Kim of the University of Utah (UU) Department of Urban and Urban Planning worked with John Downen and Joshua Spoulsdoff of UU’s Kem K. Gardner Policy Institute to survey local businesses about their March 2020 disaster recovery efforts. The researchers noted that despite increased risk awareness among businesses, the March 2020 events did not result in concrete preparedness or mitigation actions. Based on the results of this study, the authors propose the following actions to ensure future economic resilience along the Wasatch Front:

  • Increasing investment in resilient transport infrastructure before a disaster to reduce the cost of eventual recovery;
  • Improve business resilience practices for high-performing industrial sectors through training and outreach;
  • Identify structural barriers to the adoption of sustainable business practices and promote mitigation through recovery.
  • Incorporate disaster resilience into economic development by moving away from a piecemeal approach to disaster management and economic development.

Destroying bunkers is key. The main focus of this project was the development of partnerships between the university, the community, transport organizations and political organizations in the region. The partners in this project are the Utah Office of Emergency Management, the Wasatch Front Regional Council, the Utah Inland Ports Authority, and the University of Utah.

Why do this research?

“The source of this project was a conversation I had a few years ago with some colleagues from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Region 8 who were wondering how we could do additional research related to logistics that would help them in their planning . The main question was the following. how will supply chains be affected when we have this big earthquake?” Chandrasekhar said.

According to the Utah Seismic Safety Commission, the Wasatch fault segment in Salt Lake City was late for the “big” (magnitude 7.0 seismic event) that last occurred 1,400 years ago. After an earthquake of this magnitude, Wasatch Front is likely to suffer short-term economic losses of $33 billion, including $24.9 billion in building-related direct (capital) losses, $6.9 billion in lost revenue, and $1.4 billion dollars in livelihoods. related losses that include vehicles.

Modeling the potential economic impact of transport-related disruptions is an important step in helping advance recovery planning and community-wide resilience. However, existing supply chain and economic impact models are prohibitively expensive and too complex to be used by resource-limited public sector organizations. That’s why the UU team has focused its efforts on small and medium-sized enterprises, helping to better understand how these enterprises adjust to disruptions in transportation after natural disasters and what they can do to prepare for such events.

In addition to enhancing our knowledge of small business disaster resilience, this study also develops an accessible analytical framework for planners and policymakers in high-risk areas that they can use to make data-driven decisions on transport and economic resilience planning.


In the first phase of the project, the team combined the results of three widely used models (Hazus, Wasatch Front Haul Demand Model, and REMI PI+) to identify the industrial sectors that are expected to be most affected by traffic losses in a magnitude 7.0 earthquake. scenario. They found that roughly 70% of Wasatch Front’s regional economy is in some of the hardest hit sectors. They then assessed travel delays, damage to roads and bridges, and other potential impacts on the regional economy. Detailed results of each analysis are available in Chapter 2 of the Final Report.

In Phase 2, the team interviewed 130 Salt Lake City businesses from the 10 most impacted industrial sectors identified in Phase 1 to understand how they are currently coping with supply disruptions due to COVID-19 and their earthquake preparedness in the future. Businesses have reported a significant impact of natural disasters on supply chain management and production costs. Utah businesses have taken a number of actions to deal with these disruptions, including adjusting capital costs and diversifying suppliers in and out of the city. While the disaster experience has increased awareness and confidence in preparing for the future, most businesses reported taking few concrete actions in terms of mitigation and preparedness.

What can a local business do?

Chandrasekhar identified several actions that small and medium businesses can take to mitigate the effects of future natural disasters. She says it’s important to know your hazard and exposure risk, as well as the condition of your building. For example, many buildings in Utah have unreinforced masonry, which is a serious risk.

Other activities include obtaining business interruption insurance; having a contingency plan (for example, a data recovery plan in case of digital data loss); and knowledge of your own supply chain: knowing where your goods are coming from and what might affect their movement. Chandrasekhar also advises businesses to take advantage of the resources that local and state governments have to offer. For example, the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity and the Be Ready Utah initiative offer help with disaster planning for business continuity, an opportunity many business owners may not be aware of.

The study highlights the need for high-risk communities to identify industrial sectors at risk and conduct targeted disaster management and awareness-raising work in these sectors.

Economic resilience actions help businesses prevent losses in the event of a natural disaster

Additional Information:
Assessing the Economic Impact of Transport-Related Supply Chain Disruptions in Post-Earthquake Conditions

For a more detailed overview of the results, watch the webinar recorded on July 22 with the principal investigator, Dr. Divya Chandrasekhar of UU.

Courtesy of the National Institute for Transportation and Communities.

Quote: Disaster Transport Recovery: A Collaborative University-Community Model (2022, 11 August), retrieved 11 August 2022 from .

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