Earthquakes and tsunamis, floods and forest fires, landslides and drought: Lebanon faces serious threats. Enter 'GARD plus' and Deutsche Post DHL.
Lebanon is the first country to receive Deutsche Post DHL's new 'GARD plus' training and review.
Piloted in Indonesia back in 2009, GoHelp's "Get Airports Ready for Disaster" program (GARD) goes from strength to strength. Designed to assess airport capacities in the event of a crisis, GARD has been taken to five countries in Asia and the Middle East.Lebanon's GARD training was held at Beirut International Airport in July 2012. In a mix of classroom instruction and training on the tarmac, the GARD team worked alongside airport staff, customs officials, disaster-management agents, the military, and the Red Cross to assess the airport's facilities and its capacity to handle surges in air traffic and incoming aid.
Following the training, the Lebanese side formed a working group, planning to meet regularly to enhance disaster preparedness, and produce a GARD Action Plan for review some 18 months down the line.
Ground Operations Manager DHL Express Lebanon supports the authorities and the GARD team with warehousing and handling expertise. But Semaan first supported the national government during the 2006 war. When Lebanon's government asked local express companies to help manage aid supplies arriving at the airport, sea port and border crossings, he led the cross-company task force for three months.
Fouad Semaan, DHL Express Ground Operations Manager in Beirut, who attended the GARD training and is part of the working group, says the Lebanese authorities were more than impressed. "Once they realized what it was really all about, and saw the professionalism of it all, they were quick to see the benefits and wanted to do more."
From July to December, the working group held weekly meetings. "We had all the facts from the initial GARD training," says Semaan. "Next we had to find solutions to remedy identified shortfalls in areas like storage capacity, equipment, staffing and communications."
So enthusiastic were they in wanting to improve that they decided to ask the GARD team to return not in the agreed 18 months but in five, to conduct the first ever 'GARD plus' review. Deutsche Post DHL's new follow-up assessment model sees ten trainees from the initial GARD training, two trainers from DHL and two United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) representatives go back to the airport in question to evaluate action taken so far, advise on next steps, and help integrate GARD sustainably into disaster risk reduction plans.
Improvements all round
When the GARD team returned in December, they could see a lot had been done: Structures redesigned, contingency planning improved, and the parties interacting better than before.Beyond improvements at the commercial airport, the Lebanese military had also adopted GARD - not just on their side of Beirut International Airport, but at three of their military airbases as well.
GARD goes on in Lebanon
Another welcome outcome is the image boost for DHL. Relations between the company and the airport staff were already good, but were largely with Customs. They have since spread to civil aviation and other departments. "We were already the only express company with a facility at the airport, but we're now seen as a part of the airport. They include us more in what's going on."
The country's newly devised GARD Action Plan is now being translated into Arabic for presentation to the Lebanese government. Once signed, the UNDP and the civil aviation authorities will hold a simulation exercise to test it on the ground. GoHelp will support GARD follow-up measures in Lebanon and help fine-tune the plan if needed.
Author: Carol Stocks
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