"Spreading disaster preparedness, one airport at a time"
Frank Appel, CEO of Deutsche Post DHL, talks about the "Get Airports Ready for Disaster" (GARD) training in Bangladesh, a program developed together with the United Nations.
CEO Frank Appel
Mr. Appel, Deutsche Post DHL is already involved in humanitarian relief efforts with its Disaster Response Teams. Why did you expand the scope to include disaster prevention?
Frank Appel: We realized that we can close a specific niche in disaster management with our disaster response teams. This way we can support the overall relief efforts and help in disaster hit regions. Because of our engagement we also realized how important disaster preparedness is. With a national crisis plan, national authorities can avoid critical delays and react quickly in time of crisis.
This is where GARD links in: with the preparation of an emergency. GARD, with its focus on preparedness, was the natural next step in our disaster management efforts. In addition to the turnover of relief goods at airports, we can share our logistic expertise with local authorities independently from disaster situation.
Why did you decide for Bangladesh?
Frank Appel: Our aim is to support airports in regions at risk for natural disasters. GARD, by design, targets airports in high-risk regions, and according to the latest ranking by the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction , there's no other country more at risk of flooding and cyclones than Bangladesh. Most of its people live in low-lying delta and coastal areas. This makes the impact of a natural disaster in terms of human lives and livelihoods in Bangladesh very big.
We can't prevent natural disasters from happening, nor can we foresee them. But what we can do is use our logistics expertise to make sure the airports in disaster-prone regions like Bangladesh are ready to handle them. This way the GARD program offers help to self-help.
What were your experiences from earlier trainings?
Frank Appel: Bangladesh is the third country to benefit from GARD. Indonesia was the first. The most recent training was held in Nepal, where GARD's capacity building tools were shared with a total of five airports. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Nepal's government has even made the GARD surge capacity assessment method a part of its National Disaster Preparedness Plan. That's a huge compliment.
In general, we've gathered enough experience in relief logistics to know that disaster-ready airports play a significant role in the overall effectiveness of humanitarian relief efforts. Put simply, well-prepared airports save lives. And we're proud that our people - all volunteers - are willing to share their logistics know-how to make this happen.
How do you go about getting countries on board for GARD preparedness training?
Frank Appel: We developed the GARD program in close cooperation with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and on the basis of our experience on the ground in more than 20 deployments. UNDP supports us locally and with the organization of the trainings. And together we inform governments about our training project. However, we have also become a known partner in disaster management, which helps us to promote the GARD program, too.
Does Deutsche Post DHL feel a particularly strong sense of responsibility toward communities affected by natural disasters?
Frank Appel: We are a company with 470.000 employees worldwide, who represent almost every country of this world. In case of a natural disaster we feel responsible to ensure that our employees are safe. Our internal fund "We Help Each Other" is based on voluntary financial donations by our employees and is used to support those who are affected. With our core expertise in logistics we can help at crucial points in the relief effort chain. Very often, local authorities need to tackle an amount of tasks at the same time when a disaster hit. And most of the times they are grateful for what we can offer them.