GARD – Getting Airports Ready for Disaster Training Program

DHL is a household name in the courier and freight logistics industries, but less well-known is that the Deutsche Post DHL (DPDHL) group has been involved in an airport disaster preparedness programme with the UN Development Program (UNDP) and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) since 2005, in the form of its GoHelp partnership.

In 2009, the “Getting Airports Ready for Disaster”, or GARD, training program emerged from the partnership, complementing DPDHL’s disaster management program which already included the deployment of Disaster Relief Teams (DRT’s) to assist with logistics and delivery of aid when disaster strikes.

In the face of a disaster, including widespread flooding, airports in and around the disaster zone often can become bottlenecks in the flow of relief supplies. With swamped officials, back-logged visa requests, mountains of lifesaving supplies and throngs of people with nowhere to go, such scenes of chaos and mayhem are all too familiar to humanitarian relief workers. The high volume of relief goods and personnel, combined with the overall burden of the disaster, are more than many airports are equipped to handle.

The result is that forwarding of life-saving relief supplies can be delayed or rendered impossible. The GARD program is aimed at avoiding such situations, by holding disaster preparedness workshops with key airport officials and stakeholders aimed at developing concrete action plans which can then be implemented by airport staff and disaster management authorities in the affected locations.

GARD workshops have been held in various disaster-prone parts of the globe, and cover both theory and practice, including an analysis of the airport’s maximum processing capacity (goods and passengers) and identification of action measures to quickly increase airport capacity in the event of a natural disaster. Workshop participants also work with the trainers to identify possible bottlenecks at their airport, and to develop concrete measures for avoiding such logjams. The results are documented as part of an action plan for increasing the airport’s maximum capacity (Airport Assessment Report).

The workshops, according to DPDHL, are:

  • Conducted by DHL air freight experts
  • Aimed at airport managers and disaster management organization employees
  • Bring together the key players in a possible disaster relief effort
  • Convey a practical approach to disaster relief in 3-5 day training courses
  • Include workshops as well as a formal risk analysis of the airport infrastructure
  • Result in an action plan to increase the airport’s maximum capacity (Airport Assessment Report)

The first ‘pilot’ workshop was held in the Philippines in 2009, and since then, over 30 airports have been prepared for disaster situations and over 500 people have attended the workshops. Countries include Nepal, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Turkey, Armenia, El Salvador, Panama, Sri Lanka, Macedonia, and, in 2016, Mauritius and India. GARD instructors are specially trained logistics and training experts from DPDHL, some of which are already involved as volunteers in the company’s disaster management program.

Image: DHL

The GARD workshop held in February last year at the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport, some 40 kilometres southwest of the capital city in Port Luis, Mauritius, was the first to be held in Africa. The four-day disaster preparedness program resulted in the development of a contingency plan for the cyclone-prone island’s airport

According to Kim Melville, who led the GARD training sessions, the airport’s experts were quick to recognize the benefits of the GARD program, gave positive participant feedback, and, by the end of the program, felt better prepared to respond to a natural disaster. The workshop was also attended by representatives of civil aviation authorities from Seychelles and Reunion Island.

The UNDP and DPDHL have subsequently introduced a refresher concept, GARD Plus, to promote a sustainable approach to airport readiness. This involves a follow-up workshop after a period of six to twelve months, to review action measures identified during the initial workshop. The first GARD Plus workshop was held in December 2012 in Beirut, Lebanon, followed by Panama, El Salvador, Indonesia, Armenia, Peru and the Dominican Republic.

Chris Weeks, Director of Humanitarian Affairs at Deutsche Post DHL Group, said, “The GARD workshop allows us to work with authorities to increase the surge capacity of airports after natural disasters. It also helps to improve the overall coordination across various organizations involved in relief efforts when a disaster hits. Using our logistics expertise and the partnership with UNDP, we have together completed 30 GARD workshops and trained 600 people at airports around the world.”

GARD trainers and materials are provided free-of-charge by DPDHL Group while the Geneva hub of UNDP’s Climate Change and DRR Team leads the project implementation and facilitates coordination with relevant government authorities. GARD training workshop arrangements and logistics costs are fully covered by the UNDP with funding contributions from Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), through the International Recovery Platform.

“This programme is all about identifying bottlenecks to the delivery of aid and fixing them,” says Neil Buhne, Director of UNDP’s Geneva office. “We want to make people pause and ask themselves what the system is lacking and where they can improve it by devising practical contingency plans.”

Find out more about GARD here.