Enhance preparedness & reduce risks at the Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport in the framework of 'get airports ready for disaster” programme

16 Jul 2012

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Under the patronage of His Excellency Mr. Ghazi El-Aridi, the United Nations Development Programme and DHL launched the preparedness training program “Get Airports Ready for Disaster” (GARD) took place at the Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport on 9 July 2012. 

The aim of the training is to improve local logistics capacities so that the bottlenecks at disaster – site airports can be avoided when huge volumes of incoming relief goods arrive ad hoc. 

Lebanon is the fourth country to receive the GARD training which has been successfully rolled out in Indonesia, Nepal and Bangladesh. The four-day program focused on training airport staff as well as local and government officials to assess local requirements and create detailed contingency plans. 

The GARD Program was developed together with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 2009 to train airport personnel, local security officials and representatives of national disaster agencies in airport logistics management. GARD grew out of first-hand experience that showed just how important it is for disaster-prone regions and airports to be disaster-ready and be able to respond quickly and effectively to the challenges of disaster relief logistics. 

The Get Airports Ready for Disaster training program was launched in the presence of Mr. Robert Watkins, UNDP Resident Representative and Mr. John Chedid, DHL Express Lebanon Country Manager.

In his speech, H.E. Mr. Ghazi Al-Aridi declared during the opening session that “the training program is very important to be attended by the committee in charge of follow-up to the course of events at the airport and this committee raised more than once the situation at the airport and the need to vaccinate the airport after an unfortunate accidents occurred”. 

UNDP Resident Representative Mr. Robert Watkins said at the opening ceremony that “Lebanon is subjected to a range of natural hazards, and as other countries in the region, the largest, single, natural disaster threat is that of a severe earthquake and/or an associated Tsunami. In addition to this ever-present threat, typical smaller-scale disasters include floods, forest fires, land-slides and draught. 

He added “We can reduce significantly the loss of human lives and the damage to social and productive infrastructure, by scaling up our efforts to enhance preparedness and reduce risks with the commitment and engagement of all governmental and non-governmental actors”. 

The GARD instructors are specially trained logistics and training experts from Deutsche Post DHL, some of which are already involved as volunteers in the company’s disaster management program. They will conduct the GARD training for some 31 participants in the capital city of Beirut. Trainees include not only airport personnel but also security and military officials. 

Mr. John Chedid, DHL Express Lebanon Country Manager mentioned that “We are very excited to be conducting the GARD training for the Beirut Rafic Hariri Airport. This program will enable all parties involved in the safety and security of the airport the perfect platform to align and strategize our action plan in case, a disaster should ever occur.” 

The GARD training program begins with an assessment of the existing situation, including available personnel, equipment and the airfield situation. Warehouse space, for example, is one of the program’s focus areas. Trainees are instructed in assessing storage options for relief goods and whether the necessary equipment is available for cargo handling, such as forklifts, pallets, gloves and boxes. 

“The specific aim of the training is to get the various organizations that operate at Beirut airport to write a plan which will allow them to increase the capacity of the airport from its current level up to 3 times as much in passenger and cargo terms. It’s not for long time but specifically up to 3 weeks following a natural disaster” said Mr. Chris Weeks, Humanitarian Affairs Director at Deutsche Post DHL. And he added “I think Lebanon is more willing and determined than other countries to put a plan into place”. 

In workshops, the local trainees evaluate the results and develop contingency plans accordingly. GARD participants learn how to optimize logistics processes and capacities for when international relief goods begin to pour into the airport. Once trained, the participants in Lebanon shall evaluate their contingency plans on a regular basis and prepare for the event of a crisis with local NGOs, the government and airport officials. 

As a participant, Mr. Kamal Chaib, Deputy Airport Manager, stressed on the importance of the GARD training which offers realistic ways and solutions to deal with emergency cases following a natural disaster. “When the action plan is finalized, we will, as trainees, train the airport employees on how to implement it”. 

The GARD concept is the natural next step for DHL Express in its commitment to humanitarian relief, which began with its Disaster Response Team (DRT) program. As part of the Deutsche Post DHL Group Corporate Responsibility program Go Help, the DRTs have been deployed to over 20 airports since 2005. The DRTs, who work free of charge and in close cooperation with the UN, help keep the flow of incoming relief goods moving at disaster-site airports.

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