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.

10 years GARD

This year the GARD - Get Airports Ready for Disaster program celebrates its 10th anniversary. After the first workshop in 2009 in the Asia-Pacific region, the GARD program expanded geographically and 45 successful workshops with over 1100 participants have been completed in 23 countries all over the world. In close collaboration with the United Nations Development Program and other partners, our trainers constantly work on further developing the methodology and format of the program. As a result of these workshops and the close collaboration with many partners, the outcomes are being incorporated into national and regional disaster preparedness plans. Overall, the program can look back on ten successful years of disaster preparedness with an ever growing network of partner organizations that have helped make this program so valuable.

GARD workshop in Maldives

GARD workshops - examples

  • In May 2019 a “Get Airports Ready for Disaster” (GARD) workshop took place at Toamasina International Airport in Madagascar, leaving the insular state better prepared for a future crisis situation. 38 representatives of different airports and local aviation agencies, as well as national and international disaster management institutions, gathered to participate in the five-day workshop.

    Madagascar is especially vulnerable to severe tropical storms (cyclones). Secondary disasters can be triggered by landslides and flooding. Furthermore droughts, earthquakes and locust invasions occur on a regular basis. The increasingly variable and changing climate leads to these events becoming more frequent and intense, affecting food security, drinking water supply and the population’s living conditions in general.

    During the program skilled Deutsche Post DHL Group trainers explained the theoretical basis of GARD und conducted an assessment jointly with the participants to identify potential gaps regarding the airport’s preparedness for a crisis situation. Afterwards an individual action plan was developed to display solutions for these gaps.

  • In April 2019 two airports in Iraq received a GARD training within four days. The international airports Erbil and Sulaimaniyya are about the same size and both located in Northern Iraq, close by each other. Iraq regularly faces disastrous events, e.g. heavy rains leading to flooding with many fatalities, displaced people and severe damages, which is why the coordination of crisis logistics can be complex after a big disaster. For a rapid and efficient humanitarian response air transport is very important.

    In a disaster situation both airports will be affected by a higher influx and export and should therefore be evaluated in a holistic way. The goal of the workshop which was conducted together with the state crisis coordination agency for the autonomous region of Kurdistan at the international airports of Erbil and Sulaimaniyya was the training of the 30 participants in the area of disaster logistics.

  • From 25 to 28 February 2019 a GARD workshop was conducted at Toncontín International Airport in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The state belongs to the most vulnerable on a global scale regarding natural disasters; devastating storms regularly strike the country leading to chaos and destruction. 44 people working in different aviation and airport agencies at the airport participated in the workshop, e.g. security, fire brigade, customs, logistics, etc. During the four days they learned about the GARD theory and developed a so-called Airport Surge Capacity Assessment Plan as well as an action plan according to the gaps and deficits they discovered while assessing the airport area. Next to two lead trainers and five local trainers, for the first time members of the international aviation agencies ICAO and ACI observed the workshop procedure.

  • In October 2018, a GARD workshop was conducted at Juan Santamaría International Airport in Costa Rica, aiming to increase disaster preparedness. The workshop was held with over 45 participants form various agencies and authorities in Costa Rica. It was jointly organized by DPDHL and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

    The GARD workshop was very successful and the participants as well as the GARD trainers judged the training as highly useful. Especially the interaction of various important stakeholders and government institutions was thought to be beneficial.

  • To build resilience against future natural disasters, Deutsche Post DHL Group and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) teamed up with government officials and humanitarian response experts at Sarajevo International Airport to conduct their internationally recognized Getting Airports Ready for Disaster (GARD). 

    Over 25 participating officials and experts joined the four-day GARD workshop led by Deutsche Post DHL Group and UNDP experts. During the program, participants and trainers evaluated the current level of preparedness at the airport, conducted training exercises, and developed specific recommendations as well as an individual action plan to ensure that the airport is prepared for future disasters.

  • In August 2018, a GARD workshop was conducted at Capitán FAP José A. Quiñones González International Airport in Chiclayo, Peru, aiming to increase surge capacity in times of natural disasters. The workshop with almost 40 representatives from different airports and authorities in Peru was jointly organized by DPDHL and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). 

    The workshop was very successful and trainers as well as participants felt that the interaction with key stakeholders from different institutions and airports was very beneficial. Overall, all participating experts were quick to recognize the benefits of the GARD program and felt better prepared to respond in case of a natural disaster.

    Further, a GARD Plus workshop was conducted in Lima, Peru in August. Following a GARD workshop conducted at Lima airport in 2014, DPDHL logistics experts met with the airport authority and other stakeholders to discuss achievements and developments in regard to disaster preparedness at the airport since 2014.

  • The GARD Train the Facilitator workshop was piloted at Calicut International Airport in Kozhikode city, Kerala in the beginning of August 2018. Fourteen airport operations experts from across India gathered for a five-day training from 6-10 August 2018 to learn how to make their airports disaster-ready, and to become national trainers for GARD workshops in India. This not only supports airport authorities in their efforts to build resilience against future natural disasters, but also enables participants to train others at the national level.

    Deutsche Post DHL Group (DPDHL) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) expanded their internationally recognized Get Airports Ready for Disaster (GARD) program with officials and experts from the Airports Authority of India (AAI). This new format now includes the new Train the Facilitator (TtF) element for countries that are at above average risk for natural disasters. At the workshop, facilitators-in-training will learn how to evaluate the current level of preparedness at airports, conduct training exercises, and develop specific recommendations and ready an action plan to ensure that airports are prepared for future disasters.

  • 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.

Disaster Response

In cooperation with the United Nations, 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.