Disaster Response

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.

Origins

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

  • A small DRT deployment was initiated in India on August 19th 2018 to support the humanitarian relief efforts following the devastating floods in the south western Indian state of Kerala. The floods left thousands of people trapped and killed over 350. Many areas could not be reached by rescue teams due to the continuous flooding. About 6 DRT volunteers from the area supported the local humanitarian relief efforts in India. Further, 5000 DPDHL Speedballs, brightly-coloured shipping bags filled with both food and non-food items, that are waterproof and sturdy enough to be thrown from helicopters, were distributed to supply trapped people in hard-to-reach areas. The team stayed for three days.

  • A DRT was activated in Guatemala on June 5 to support the humanitarian relief efforts following the eruption of the Fuego volcano, about 24 miles southwest of Guatemala City. The eruption left an estimated 3,000 people displaced, about 200 people missing and a death toll of around 100. Several towns were covered in thick ash. About 10 DRT volunteers supported the humanitarian relief efforts. The volunteers worked in a warehouse about 40 miles away from the volcano, where they put together emergency supplies for the victims, kept an inventory of relief goods and coordinated the logistics of local aid in the warehouse to facilitate the distribution.

  • 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

With our program "Get Airports Ready for Disaster" (GARD) we prepare airport personnel and disaster management agencies for the logistics challenges associated with disaster relief efforts.