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August 12, 2014: Deutsche Post DHL and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) are celebrating a special anniversary: for five years now, both organizations have been working on a joint scheme to provide selected airports in disaster prone areas with training and other special attention to help them better prepare for disasters.

The “Get Airports Ready for Disaster” (GARD) program has now worked with 25 airports to help them cope with the logistical challenge of a humanitarian crisis caused by disaster.

When natural disasters strike, airports become vital hubs and important gateways for aid supplies that are meant to reach disaster victims quickly. Passenger volumes also rise in times of crisis: relatives travel to the region to support their families; the international community sends relief specialists and goods; and media arrive to cover the response. If this isn’t managed properly it can cause bottle necks for aid delivery and stall the distribution of relief.

During workshops, airport specialists from DHL and representatives from UNDP work with participants from airports and emergency services on a crisis plan. This plan highlights efficient and practical contingencies for handling a surge in international relief goods and humanitarian personnel following a disaster. The workshop also considers the implications of extensive damage to airport infrastructure and/or a loss of staff and capacity due to earthquake, floods, hurricanes or tsunami.

During a GARD workshop, airport employees and representatives of the national government disaster management body learn which mechanisms are effective in the wake of a natural disaster; which actors of the international community – the United Nations, for example – take action; the scope and timing of emergency response; as well as the processes that are set in motion. Particular emphasis is placed on evaluating the capacity of participant’s own airport, including potential storage opportunities for relief goods, available personnel and equipment, and technical requirements or corresponding alternatives.

To date, GARD workshops have been conducted in Armenia, Bangladesh, El Salvador, Indonesia, Lebanon, Nepal, Panama, Peru, the Philippines and Turkey, training at least 430 people. Interest has only increased and the next workshop is scheduled for Jordan in September.

“Due to the deployment of our so-called “Disaster Response Teams” we have many years of experience in handling these terrible events. The work these teams have done at airports in crisis zones has permitted us to experience first-hand the importance of comprehensive prevention. In 2009, we used that knowledge to develop the “Get Airports Ready for Disaster” program in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme and we are very satisfied about the positive feedback from the countries,” said Christof Ehrhart, Executive Vice President Corporate Communications and Responsibility at Deutsche Post DHL.

“In the last 20-years, disasters have affected at least 5 billion people; given the impact it is crucial that we prevent unnecessary deaths by being as prepared as possible, and this is precisely what GARD does with airports,” said Marta Ruedas, Deputy Director of the UNDP’s Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery.

Aviation experts from the world’s biggest logistics provider, DHL conduct the GARD training pro bono and provide relevant training materials. UNDP, with an extensive country level presence and decades of experience supporting national development efforts, manages the project, coordinates with government authorities, and provides funds to shoulder workshop costs.

The GARD concept complements the disaster management program of Deutsche Post DHL, which also encompasses DHL’s Disaster Response Teams (DRT). The DRTs provide logistical support at airports following a natural disaster and have been deployed over 25 times since their formation in 2005. The DRTs, in close cooperation with the UN, help keep the flow of incoming relief goods moving at disaster-site airports. Both GARD and the DRTs form part of the Group's Corporate Responsibility Program “Living Responsibility”. Both programs are conducted in partnership with the UNDP and/or UNOCHA and are offered free of charge.

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