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Decision-making and operations in disasters: challenges and opportunities

Oscar Rodríguez-Espíndola (Aston Business School, Aston University, Birmingham, UK)
Pavel Albores (Aston Business School, Aston University, Birmingham, UK)
Christopher Brewster (Data Science Group, Toegepast-Natuurwetenschappelijk Onderzoek, Soesterberg, The Netherlands)

International Journal of Operations & Production Management

ISSN: 0144-3577

Article publication date: 25 May 2018

Issue publication date: 18 October 2018




Decision-making structures are commonly associated with the logistics challenges experienced during disaster operations. However, the alignment between the operational level and the decision-making structure is commonly overlooked. The purpose of this paper is to provide an analysis of the fit of both levels and its impact on performance.


The research is developed around a case study in Mexico. Through a review of the disaster management policy in the country, interviews and secondary data, the paper provides an analysis of the current decision-making structure, the logistics activities undertaken by authorities and the impact of the alignment between both components on logistics performance.


The analysis suggests that several of the challenges commonly associated with centralisation are actually rooted on its alignment with the operational level. The logistics performance is negatively affected by faulty assumptions, poorly planned procedures, inconsistent decision-making and poorly designed structures. The case showed the need to align the operational level with a centralised perspective to increase responsiveness, flexibility and the interaction between different organisations.


This paper identifies the impact of the misalignment between the decision-making structure and the operational level on logistics performance, an area currently understudied. It moves from the current argument about the appropriate decision-making structure for disaster management to the identification of components to implement an efficient and effective disaster management system. Additionally, this paper provides recommendations for best practices in humanitarian logistics, which are applicable to Mexico and other countries using a centralised decision-making approach.



The authors would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments, observations and time. Their insights have been essential for shaping this paper and any mistakes and/or omissions remain responsibility of the authors alone.


Rodríguez-Espíndola, O., Albores, P. and Brewster, C. (2018), "Decision-making and operations in disasters: challenges and opportunities", International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 38 No. 10, pp. 1964-1986.



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Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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