Book Review: Out of the Whirlwind; Supply and Demand After Hurricane Maria

Review of Out of the Whirlwind; Supply and Demand After Hurricane Maria by Philip J. Palin. Publisher : Rowman & Littlefield.ISBN: 978-1-5381-1820-7 (paperback); 109 pps; from $27; May 2019.

Reviewer: Jono Anzalone, CEM®, Airbnb Global Disaster Response and Relief Partnerships and former Vice President of International Services with the American Red Cross. Jono has been a volunteer with the Red Cross since 1995.

Palin’s expertise in food security and supply chain management provides an unparalleled creative narrative inquiry into the aftermath of Hurricane Maria which is both unique and educational.  While the title suggests a quantitative look at the supply and demand conditions after the hurricane, the qualitative approach is one that provides valuable insights into the essential economic conditions that persist after a catastrophic disaster.  Running parallel to the characters in Thorton Wilder’s The Bridget of San Luis Rey, each of the characters within the text offer insight into both the emotional toils of hurricane survival as well as a demonstration of the variables of post-disaster community resilience.

Having met Palin in 2016 at a food-security workshop in Berlin, Germany, I was pleasantly surprised by the clever poetic approach that manages to illuminate some of the many political tendencies of Federal disaster response. Having led the Hurricane Sandy New York City Multi-Agency Feeding Task Force, I found the story of particular interest and would highly recommend it for mass care feeding professionals. This is one of the only publications I am aware of that specifically calls out the potential perils of a federal aid heavy Multi-Agency Feeding Task Force, at the expense of local grocers.  The text should prompt readers within the emergency management profession to carefully examine basic economic conditions of supply, demand and, and economic signaling to be aware of the fallacy that comes with mistaking a lack of supply versus critical supply chain blockers.

The text should serve as an important lesson learned for future federally funded relief operations with particular caution for future federally funded declarations in becoming subject to a slight variation of Parksinson’s law; work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.  In lieu of work and time, substitute commodities and perceived demand.

While the focus of Palin’s text is self-declared as for supply chain students or practitioners, the text offers something educational for just about any reader.






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