Has enough research been done in the disaster operations management (DOM) area?

By Suzan Afacan

I will present the article “OR/MS research in disaster operations management” (Altay and Green III, 2006) this week in the ISyE 823. It will be good opportunity for me to give an overview of this paper in my blog post first.

Even in 20th century, disasters are still big issues for the societies and nations. One of the deadliest example is the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami which resulted in the lost of 225,000 people.

Altan and Green reviewed the articles in disaster operations management up to 2003.

It is really surprising that most of the studies in the area are done by researchers in the social sciences from social and psychological point of views.

Before starting to the analysis of articles, let’s take a look at the operational stages of disasters;

  • Mitigation: applications to reduce the impact of the disasters,
  • Preparedness: activities to make society better prepared for disasters,
  • Response: resources to protect the community and its property,
  • Recovery: long-term actions to recover from the impacts of the disaster.

There is a great table in which the writers summarize the statistics of the articles on Disaster Operations Managements (DOM).

Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 2.08.00 PM

Take away from the table:

  • Authors with an affiliation to the USA published most of the articles,
  • Main-stream of DOM starts after the 1990s with one of the possible reason being the declaration of 1990s as the International Decade of Natural Disaster Reduction,
  • Mathematical programming (included heuristics) is the method most used in the research,
  • Based on the Comprehensive Emergency Management’s four-phase disaster classification: mitigation is the most widely studied, preparedness, response and recovery follow it respectively.
  • No one studied humanitarian emergencies (epidemics, war etc.),
  • Just one article studied recovery planning published in the OR/MS journals.

There is another classification paper on this topic (Denizel et al., 2003), which presents extended classification interested ones might look at that paper also.

“DOM is by nature multi-organizational.”

The writers suggest that trying to include the ethical factors of the subject in the models is worth consideration. Also, different incident specifications may need different optimality approaches since political issues might potentially hit here again.

“You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink.”

You may not able to make every stakeholder happy even though you have the best math-programming model.

We can consider the article’s resulting idea:

“More research needs to be published in academic journals to attract the attention of OR/MS researchers to the subject matter.”

Especially, between the DOM stages, recovery planning needs more attention by researchers with the understanding of the interdependencies between critical infrastructures and systems.

Managing the disasters better will help for rapidly recovering after the disasters hit, increasing the readiness level of the community and its resources, protecting society and their properties by decreasing the response time and effective usage of the potential resources.

Blogger’s Note: After I read this article, I have a better understanding of how important the recovery phase after a disaster. I think that I am in a right direction with my current research topic in which I have been modeling the interdependency between infrastructure systems and emergency services while trying to recover the systems with more effective way. Additionally, there are several articles, which I know studied the interdependency of the systems by considering the recovery phase of the disaster. (e.g., Nurre, Sarah G., et al ; 2012)


  • Altay, Nezih, and Walter G. Green. “OR/MS research in disaster operations management.” European journal of operational research 175.1 (2006): 475-493.
  • Nurre, Sarah G., et al. “Restoring infrastructure systems: An integrated network design and scheduling (INDS) problem.” European Journal of Operational Research 223.3 (2012): 794-806.
  • Denizel, Meltem, Behlul Usdiken, and Deniz Tuncalp. “Drift or shift? Continuity, change, and international variation in knowledge production in OR/MS.” Operations Research 51.5 (2003): 711-720.


2 thoughts on “Has enough research been done in the disaster operations management (DOM) area?

  1. The table on DOM publishing statistics is very interesting. I am curious how the United States’ proportion of overall publications compares to its proportion of DOM-related publications.

    Regardless, I do think the United States is very fixated on disasters. In recent years, there have been both enormous natural disasters (Hurricane Katrina, among others) and widespread violent attacks (San Bernardino, September 11, Aurora). The aftermath of these disasters always brings up questions about efficiency. How well-prepared were relevant systems for the disaster? How quickly did the appropriate emergency services respond? How well-coordinated were the relief efforts? Studying system reactions to disasters is undoubtedly a hot research topic spanning multiple disciplines. Psychology, statistics, operations research, and countless other areas all contribute to analyzing the disaster. However, operations research, by its very definition, seems to be the most effective tool in improving these systems.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It is indeed noticeable that most studies are done in social and psychological view. This is especially compelling given the fact that the table suggests that there is no study done for humanitarian emergencies. As I see it, epidemics and wars are the one that could be well and often studied by social sciences, while natural disasters do not involve human intention for its birth.
    In any case, it really looks like there is a broad opportunity for OR for this DOM, as it can be a comprehensive and trackable tool for efficient mitigation as well as preparedness, response and recovery.

    There is one thing that I am curious about: does DOM also includes the research to predict the occurence and scale of the disaster? I preconceive it could be considered as preparedness if it is..


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