Disaster management

In the event of a natural disaster, comprehensive prevention measures and a state of constant preparedness are indispensable to ensure a fast and effective assistance. At the core of the Group-wide GoHelp program is the strategic disaster management partnership with the United Nations (UN) since 2005, which has made Deutsche Post DHL Group an important player in the worldwide humanitarian community. When called upon by the UN, we support global relief efforts by volunteering our logistics expertise, our global network and the personal commitment of our individual employees.

Disaster Response Teams

In cooperation with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), we have established a global network consisting of around 500 specially trained employees who volunteer their time to be a part of our Disaster Response Teams (DRT). There are DRTs for the Americas, the Middle East/Africa and Asia Pacific regions. When called up by the United Nations after a natural disaster, DRTs can be on the ground and operational at a disaster-site airport within 72 hours.

In close cooperation with the worldwide humanitarian system, DRT members assume various logistics responsibilities all on a volunteer basis. They unload air freight palettes, warehouse relief supplies, conduct inventory and make sure that the incoming supplies are received by the appropriate relief organizations in an orderly fashion.

We must unfortunately deny any request of free shipping to affected regions. The situation at an airport following a major disaster is rather hectic. Therefore, individual and unsolicited packages arriving in the area can create a bottleneck at the airport and slow down the relief process. If you want to support affected areas, we encourage you to donate money to large, internationally-operating aid agencies. Financial support is often the best way to help immediately as it does not slow down the flow of relief aid.


On 26 December 2003, an earthquake measuring 6.6 on the Richter scale struck the Iranian city of Bam, leaving the majority of buildings badly damaged. In the immediate aftermath of the quake, DPDHL Group was able to quickly mobilize its network and fly relief supplies into Bam Airport.
As the airport's infrastructure was not designed to cope with the sudden rise of incoming relief supplies, major logistical challenges soon led to the airport shutting down. It was at Bam Airport that DPDHL Group employees realized they could use our expertise in logistics, our global network and our employees’ commitment to support people in need around the world.

We cooperate to help

For the Disaster Response Teams, we cooperate with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) with whom we have a close and trusting strategic partnership.
OCHA is responsible for mobilizing and coordinating humanitarian aid with national and international partners. The organization calls on the DRT when disasters strike. A Memorandum of Understanding, which is signed upon deployment, regulates the cooperation with local government offices.

Areas of operation

The global DRT network consists of three regional relief hubs that have been chosen strategically to cover 80% of the world’s disaster hot-spots. One team is stationed in Singapore for operations in Asia Pacific. A second team, the DRT Americas in Panama, provides its services to the Latin American and Caribbean regions, while a third team is based in Dubai and covers the Middle East and Africa.

We ensure deployment readiness with regular trainings

We provide our DRT volunteers with intensive training to make sure they are prepared for the extraordinary demands of such deployments. As part of the training, DRT volunteers are familiarized with various aspects of disaster relief and management. Around 100 employees are trained annually for disaster response deployments, and at least one exercise a year is conducted in each of the three DRT deployment regions.

DHL Speedballs

Once relief goods have arrived at the airport, the shipments are repacked by DRT volunteers for storage in temporary warehouses and for distribution mostly by truck. To distribute urgently needed items such as health supplies, drinking water and food, however, DRT team members came up with the idea of using DHL shipping bags to distribute aid fast.

DRT teams sort urgent supplies into hundreds of polypropylene bags to create DHL Speedballs. When lands are flooded or roads have become impassable, the bundles can be loaded onto helicopters and flown directly into the inundated areas, where they are thrown into the water close to the people in need.

Memorandum of Understanding

We have bilateral Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) in place with several countries in disaster-prone regions. The MoU includes, for example, provisions governing the entry of our DRT volunteers into the respective country. These signed agreements facilitate and significantly accelerate any disaster-related deployments to those countries. In addition, the MoU allows the respective government to make a direct request for DRT deployment.

DRT deployments

  • Hurricane - Puerto Rico, September 2017
    Following immeasurable damage by Hurricane Maria to Puerto Rico, our Disaster Response Team (DRT) had been deployed to support the island’s recovery. The situation was critical: almost three and a half million affected, the electricity network down and heavy shortages of food and water plus essentials such as fuel.

  • Cyclone - Fiji Island, February 2016
    Fiji, an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean some 1,800 miles from Australia's east coast was hit by a massive storm designated Winston. It was the strongest tropical cyclone ever to make landfall. Apart from severe and extensive damage on many of the islands, the devastating cyclone took more than 40 lives and has affected an estimated 350,000 people, around a third of them children. DPDHL Group's highly-trained Disaster Response Team (DRT) volunteers from Australia and New Zealand deployed to Suva Airport to help coordinate relief logistics and to ensure the smooth delivery of cargo and relief aid to NGOs for their further distribution to the communities.

  • Earthquake – Nepal, April 2015
    A DRT was deployed to Kathmandu Airport in Nepal after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit the country on April 25, 2015. The earthquake caused severe damage in the central part of the country where the capital Kathmandu is located. This quake, as well as another 7.2 magnitude aftershock started a wave of incoming relief goods most of them arriving via plane at Kathmandu airport. In total 33 Volunteers moved about 2000 tonnes of relief goods from the airport to the humanitarian staging area of the World Food Programme during the 27 days of deployment.

  • Forest fire – Chile, April 2014
    In April 2014 a forest fire in the port city of Valparaiso killed 15 people, forced some 10,000 to evacuate and, for thousands, meant the destruction of their worldly possessions. Our DRT Americas supported with airport logistics and rebuilding efforts in cooperation with the relief organizations TECHO and Hogar de Cristo, and Chile's national disaster management authority.

  • Typhoon – Philippines, November 2013
    After Typhoon Haiyan left its path of destruction across the Philippines in November 2013, DRT Asia Pacific was deployed immediately to the Mactan Airport on the island of Cebu. Located adjacent to Leyte, the Philippine island hardest hit by Haiyan, the Mactan-Cebu Airport became the main hub for arriving relief supplies.  The DRT coordinated logistics for incoming relief supplies and helped ensure a fast and steady supply of goods to the disaster victims in need. The team was deployed continuously over a period of three weeks. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), over ten million people were directly impacted by the disaster, with more than 660,000 forced to flee their homes. 

  • Earthquake – Guatemala, November 2012
    A magnitude 7.2 earthquake rocked Guatemala's Pacific coast on November 7, 2012. The epicenter was located at a depth of 32 kilometers, 24 kilometers from the coastal city of Champerico, and some 160 kilometers southwest of Guatemala City. The earthquake caused major damage in several of the country's provinces and claimed many dead and injured, with the San Marcos region hit the hardest. In response, 59 members of the DRT Americas deployed to the disaster area. At Guatemala City's international airport, DRT members worked in CONRED camps (Coordinating Agency for Disaster Reduction) receiving and distributing relief supplies provided by the government and aid organizations, and processing some 70 tonnes of relief supplies over the course of their nine-day deployment.

  • Floods - El Salvador, October 2011
    Heavy rains in October led to floods and mudslides throughout all of El Salvador. 34 people died and nearly 50,000 sought shelter in emergency housing. El Salvador is home to more than 50 DRT volunteers, making it possible to deploy the DRTs in less than the usual 72 hours. A total of 58 DRT volunteers were on the ground over a period of 10 days. Mario Arévalo Meléndez, GoHelp Manager DRT Americas and Security Manager for El Salvador, led the deployment. " Experiencing first-hand how volunteer work can ease the pain of others in difficult times makes me proud of both my company and my team," says Arévalo Meléndez. "And it inspires me to keep on helping."

  • Floods – Pakistan, August 2010
    What started as seasonal rains in late July 2010 became a disaster of historic proportions for Pakistan. By mid-August, the deluge had cost more than 1,700 lives and affected more than 18 million people according to expert estimation. Following our agreement with Pakistan's national Disaster Management Authority, the DHL DRT set up operations at the military section of Islamabad Airport, where the team of 30 DRT volunteers from 10 countries in the Middle East and Asia-Pacific received, sorted and processed relief goods for onward transportation. In cooperation with the World Food Programme, the team handled some 4,500 tonnes of relief goods during an extended five-week deployment. The DRT packed more than 2,500 DHL Speedballs – waterproof bundles of supplies designed to be airlifted to those in otherwise inaccessible areas.

  • Earthquake – Indonesia, September 2009
    A 7.6-magnitude earthquake struck the island of Sumatra, Indonesia, on 30th September 2009. Around 1,000 people lost their lives, and the city of Padang was badly damaged. The Indonesian Government issued an appeal for international help and following a request from OCHA, the DHL DRT was activated. Chris Weeks, DHL's Director for Humanitarian Affairs, DRT Asia-Pacific employee volunteers from Indonesia and Singapore, and further volunteers from the DRT Middle East were all deployed to support the handling of relief goods at Padang Airport for one week.

    The deployment in Indonesia also gave DHL’s Get Airports Ready for Disaster (GARD) program an immediate test, as the pilot training exercises had only taken place in August. One of the men trained in the program, Mulatno Msi, the Logistics Director of the Disaster Management Agency, was responsible for the reception of relief aid following the earthquake and was able to directly apply what he had learned.

  • Hurricanes and flooding – Honduras and the Turks and Caicos Islands, autumn 2008
    A series of powerful hurricanes swept through the Caribbean during September and October 2008. Disaster Response Teams were requested to assess the need for logistics support in Honduras and the Turks and Caicos Islands in the aftermath. We helped local relief agencies to set up two warehouses and provided logistics advice to local personnel in the Caribbean and in Honduras. Then in November 2008, severe flooding in Panama affected tens of thousands of people, many of whom had to find temporary shelter in emergency camps. Drinking water and blankets were urgently needed. At the UN’s request, the DRT Americas took over warehousing and inventory management at David Airport in Chiriqui Province.


  • Earthquake – Peru, August 2007
    The southern region of Peru was struck by a violent earthquake in mid-August 2007. Within three days, the DHL DRT Americas was in action at Pisco Air Base. With the support of DHL Peru employees and local help, the DRT coordinated the warehousing and distribution of large quantities of supplies sent by national and international aid organizations, governments, churches, NGOs and private donors. The DRT stayed in Pisco for two weeks, during which time the team had trained members of the Peruvian civil defense (INDECI) to manage the warehouse and inventory on their own.

  • Earthquake – Indonesia, May 2006
    More than 6,200 people died, 30,000 were injured and nearly 650,000 were left homeless after an earthquake struck the Indonesian island of Java in late May 2006. At the request of the Indonesian coordination agency for emergency aid (Bakornas) and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the DHL DRT Asia-Pacific was mobilized to Solo Adisoemarmo Airport on Java. Within three weeks, 200 tonnes of supplies were transferred from 6,500 shipments containing primarily medicine, tents, blankets and food. The 14-member DHL team also trained workers to ensure supplies would continue to be distributed after the team had left.

  • Earthquake – South East Asia, October 2005
    When a violent earthquake struck Pakistan and northern India in October 2005, the extent of the disaster was not immediately apparent. Many of the 50,000 victims were living in remote mountain valleys which could not be easily accessed, and millions of people were left homeless. During the chaos of the initial relief efforts, UNO Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland called the situation a “logistical nightmare” the like of which the UN had never seen. Using DRT volunteers, DHL leveraged its logistics experience to ensure that international aid arriving on chartered flights could be transferred to the affected areas as quickly and efficiently as possible, and to keep Islamabad Airport open for further shipments.

  • Tsunami – coastal areas of the Indian Ocean, 2004
    Within hours of the catastrophic flooding of coastal areas of the Indian Ocean in 2004, Deutsche Post DHL Group began organizing the logistics and transportation of humanitarian aid by leveraging its worldwide network. On the Thai island of Phuket, DHL vehicles shuttled tourists to safety and in India, they helped to transport federal police forces to the disaster area. The Airport Emergency Team – the predecessor of today’s Disaster Response Teams – was mobilized and sent to Colombo Airport in Sri Lanka. In the weeks that followed, Deutsche Post DHL Group and staff members contributed even further to the relief efforts. The company donated €1 million in financial aid and provided free cargo flights to the disaster area, and thousands of employees made further personal donations. A joint initiative by Deutsche Post DHL Group and eBay raised over €2 million.

Disaster Preparedness

"Get Airports Ready for Disaster" (GARD)

In the wake of a natural disaster, airports in or near the affected area can become bottlenecks in the flow of relief supplies. Often the existing infrastructure cannot handle the tremendous volume of incoming goods. This is why we collaborate with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to conduct multiday workshops for personnel at airports and local disaster management organizations. Our experienced airport trainers conduct workshops to prepare participants for the logistical challenge of a disaster relief effort. These help them improve processes for dispatching and processing large volumes of incoming relief workers and supplies.

Partnership with the United Nations Development Programme

Our GARD program involves a long-term strategic partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Through this partnership, we are able to cooperate closely with local authorities and government ministries in each of the GARD workshop countries. This facilitates both planning and execution of the workshops, as well as subsequent implementation of the action measures identified during the workshops. Through the partnership with UNDP, GARD also becomes a platform for dialogue and exchange between experts in humanitarian logistics and disaster management.

GARD: Achievements so far and look ahead

The GARD program has continued to grow since the first pilot workshop back in 2009. So far, more than 40 airports around the world have been prepared for disaster situations and more than 1,000 participants have taken part in the training.

Workshop formats

During the five day GARD workshops, Deutsche Post DHL Group air freight experts act mainly as trainers. Contents of the GARD workshop cover both theory and practice, including an assessment of the airport's maximum processing capacity (goods and passengers).  The participants identify action measures to quickly increase airport capacity in the event of a natural disaster. Workshop participants, including airport staff and representatives of disaster management agencies, 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 in the Airport Surge Capacity Assessment Report (ASCA), an action plan for increasing the airport's maximum capacity. To be successful, it is critical that the emergency plans take into account the conditions specific to the individual airport, such as architecture and geography. For this reason, the workshops always take place directly at the airport.

Our trainers developed the GARD Plus workshops as a way to monitor the progress of implementation. As part of GARD Plus, the key action measures which had been identified during the initial GARD workshop are typically reviewed after a period of twelve months. To foster the knowledge gained during the GARD workshop, GARD Plus also includes a practical exercise.

In view of the increasing demands to better prepare regional airports for natural disasters, GARD Train the Facilitator has been established to scale up the GARD program within countries that are above average risk. The GARD Train the Facilitator program trains local topic experts to become facilitators and conduct GARD workshops in their own countries.

GARD workshop in Maldives

GARD workshops - examples

  • In cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Deutsche Post DHL Group supported Maldivian authorities in their efforts to build resilience against future natural disasters.

    The two partners teamed up with Maldives Airports Company Limited, the National Disaster Management Centre and government officials, as well as representatives of the military and other humanitarian response experts to host their internationally recognized Get Airports Ready for Disaster (GARD) program at Velana Airport, the main international airport in the Maldives.

    The country relies heavily on air routes to transport aid and supplies during times of emergency. Therefore, experts from Deutsche Post DHL Group and UNDP equipped participants with best-practice logistics management for emergency situations after natural disasters and worked with them to devise customized disaster-response airport plans. The workshops raised awareness of Disaster Risk Reduction, and identified priorities for investment in national infrastructure that could further improve the resilience of emergency supply chains during a disaster.

  • Africa's first GARD workshop was held February 2016 in Mauritius. Twenty-nine experts gathered at the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport, some 40 kilometers southwest of the capital city Port Luis, where they took part in the four-day disaster preparedness program and developed a contingency plan. Mauritius, an in island nation located in the Indian Ocean, is geographically prone to natural disasters, especially cyclones.

    The workshop was a success. "It was a pleasure working with such a highly motivated group of people," said Kim Melville, who led the GARD training sessions in Mauritius. The airport’s experts were quick to recognize the benefits of the GARD program and felt better prepared to respond should natural disaster strike.

  • In early October, Deutsche Post DHL Group aviation experts held a "Get Airports Ready for Disaster" (GARD) workshop at the Cibao International Airport and in early 2014 on Las Americas Airport in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. The workshop involved 22 participants, ranging from airport staff, security officers and fire fighters to representatives of local government agencies and authorities. Eleven GARD trainers from Panama, Guatemala and Costa Rica - all volunteers from DHL Aviation and DHL Express - conducted the instructional sessions. Together they assessed the facilities and developed detailed plans and personalized responses. They also staged a simulation to put into practice appropriate emergency reactions. Undoubtedly it makes a difference for the earthquake-prone Dominican Republic. With at least 14 geological faults in the region, there is a constant high risk of seismic activity. That's why employees from various local airports took part in advance training sessions in order to apply what they learned at their own facilities.

  • After a GARD workshop was held in October 2013 at Zvartnots International Airport near the Armenian capital Yerevan, the object of the follow-up GARD Plus course in July 2014 was to fine-tune the risk analysis performed in 2013 and to integrate the recommendations from the first GARD workshop into Armenia's national disaster management program.  "I was impressed by the work of the United Nations and the Armenian Ministry of Emergency Situations," said workshop leader and DHL GoHelp manager Paul Dowling. "It was clearly noticeable how much work the participants had invested in the project since the first GARD workshop."

  • 32 participants took an active part in the GARD Workshop at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, the Philippines from 27th to 30th May, led by 7 DHL GARD Trainers. The Philippines – located within the 'Pacific Ring of Fire' – make it susceptible to earthquakes, landslides, tornados, typhoons and other natural disasters. "With regular and updated planning and training in place, this will mitigate the risks associated with a sudden onset of a natural disaster", said Toshihiro Tanaka, Country Director, United Nations Development Programme.

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  • GARD has been successfully introduced in Europe’s largest metropolitan areas and one of the fastest growing cities: Istanbul. Turkey is hit by hundreds of earthquakes per year. Most of these earthquakes are small in size but, occasionally, the earthquakes reach above magnitude 7.0. In the next few years, an earthquake in the immediate area of Istanbul is expected. Thus, the GARD workshop at Istanbul Atatürk Airport was extremely helpful and contributed a great deal to the region's preparedness in the event of a disaster.

  • Bangladesh is a high-risk country for both earthquakes and tsunamis. It also experiences regular flooding, with a large portion of the nation situated in the Ganges River Delta, at the confluence of several rivers and along the Gulf of Bengal. Many of the country's cities are just a few meters above sea level. To better handle disaster situations, 20 individuals from both airports and disaster control organizations took part in the GARD workshop program held in Bangladesh. The workshop was conducted in the country’s capital of Dhaka and in the southern city of Chittagong.

  • Nepal was the first location to receive the GARD workshop after the program’s 2009 pilot workshop. The Himalayan country was selected due its high-risk of earthquakes, mudslides and drought. For this reason, the GARD workshop was used to evaluate five different airports in Nepal. A total of 24 employees took part in the workshop.

  • The GARD pilot program started at two airports in Makassar and Palu in the beginning of August 2009. The team members had many months of preparation, including meetings with the partner organization UNDP, establishing contact with the Indonesian Government and their national agency for disaster management and relaying information to both airport authorities. The small GARD team trained three local DHL experts - all volunteers - who then joined the training team to work with some 17 trainees (airport authorities, members of airport operations and disaster management agencies) on site at the Makassar and Palu airports. After evaluating the week-long pilot program, the two airports not only had trained personnel, but also a detailed report with recommendations for future airport relief operations.