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How Can We Curb ‘Panic Buying’ During a Disaster?

June 5, 2023 Leave a comment DRI Admin

Thinking back to the beginning of the pandemic, we can all remember the mad rush to the supermarket for toilet paper and other essentials. But how does this behavior impact the broader supply chain – and can that behavior be changed?

Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute analyzed what they dubbed “disaster-related buying behaviors” (DRBBs), and found that rather than panic, among U.S. buyers the top three drivers were:

  • Precaution – 25.79%
  • Anticipation of needs – 22.63%
  • Avoiding the possibility of regret if they didn’t make the purchase – 16.39%, and
  • Social cues of others – 13.44%.

The unfortunate result of this type of behavior is an unanticipated hit to supply chain resilience, often at a time when those essential products are needed by hospitals, first responders and other front-line agencies.

The good news: DRBB responses can be changed with some coordination between the public and private sectors. The researchers found that a full 89% of respondents said they would limit their purchases if asked by “trusted change agents” – aka, representatives of knowledgeable groups active during disasters, including the Red Cross, emergency responders, and health agencies.

“Managing DRBBs requires effective public-private-humanitarian collaboration,” said Jose Holguin-Veras, head of the study. “The public sector has the legal authority to intervene when needed, the private sector has control over the access and supplies, and the humanitarian sector has the deep community connections.”

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