A system dynamics approach to enhance the performance of emergency disaster relief operations

Date of Publication


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Industrial Engineering


Gokongwei College of Engineering


Industrial Engineering


Large-scale conflicts and disasters have tested humanitarian response capacity to the limits and have challenged the ability of the humanitarian system to guarantee that such a response is effectively and appropriately applied. Humanitarian response does not always meet the basic needs of affected populations in a timely way, response varies considerably from crisis to crisis and current capacity levels are not always sufficient to meet the demands of major emergencies occurring at the same time. Effective learning in such environments requires methods and tools that allow them to capture important feedback processes, accumulations, delays, and nonlinear relationships, visualizing complex systems in terms of the structures and policies that create dynamics and regulate performance. The system dynamics approach provide a dynamic, descriptive form of modeling to enable the understanding of the behavior of the system under a wide-variety of complex parameter configurations. It can be observed that there is a fluctuating pattern, wherein deaths would continue to rise even after the disaster is gone. Such deaths are mostly in the form of diseases. They are caused by ineffective evacuation center operations in which relief organizations have complete control. The inability to consistently treat sick victims is what creates the fluctuations. Therefore, the fluctuations in the death rate are unnecessary deaths which can be prevented through proper management and execution of disaster operations. The critiques on previous outputs are more on the fact that they were ad hoc, too idealistic, not strategic, and static. Past solutions focusing on separate components have shown that they do not contribute in the reduction of disaster casualties. A conflict exists between the goals of a subsystem and welfare of the broader system. What people know about the system tends to be narrow and far from sufficient. People fail to grasp the real relationships between system factors. Therefore, the results of studies without proper validation of replicating the general behavior of the system tend to be incorrect and actual results realized are far from the expected results. Simulation provides a way to test the model and its ability to produce what happens in reality. Simulation improves the understanding of the system and corrects error from previous inferences. Furthermore, it can include aspects of the human behavior, particularly in A SYSTEM DYNAMICS APPROACH TO ENHANCE THE PERFORMANCE OF EMERGENCY DISASTER RELIEF OPERATIONS NGO, A.T. Page ii perception and decision-making. It is basically the ideal method in determining how complex systems, such as disaster operations, truly work. The study was able to pinpoint critical areas in the disaster operations wherein feedbacks exist and dictate the continuous occurrence of sickness and deaths, in particular the deployment of doctors, the responsiveness of relief organizations in medicine provision, and evacuation center management. A combination of policy changes was tested to be effective in addressing the fluctuation of the death rate and significantly reducing the total death count. This includes improving the sensitivity in deploying doctors, considering shipment times in medicine allocation decisions, immunizing previously sick victims, and establishing a ceiling on the amount of evacuees or quarantining all sick victims. This combination of policies reduced the amount of deaths tenfold and eliminated the fluctuating pattern. The study was able to provide a generic and robust simulation model for the system of disaster relief. It gives an integrative and strategic approach towards meeting the end goal of disaster operations, which is to reduce deaths while remaining sustainable.

Abstract Format






Accession Number


Shelf Location

Archives, The Learning Commons, 12F Henry Sy Sr. Hall

Physical Description

1 computer optical disc ; 4 3/4 in.

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