Nepal was an obvious choice. Out of 200 countries, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) ranks Nepal 11th for its vulnerability to earthquakes and 30th for floods. Seismic records going back to 1255 suggest that an earthquake like the one killing 20,000 people in the Kathmandu Valley in 1934 is long overdue. “If the records are right, an earthquake could strike any minute,” says Joachim Keppler, GARD Global Program Manager. “We want to help Nepal prepare for the worst.”
Nepal was an obvious choice. Out of 200 countries, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) ranks Nepal 11th for its vulnerability to earthquakes and 30th for floods. Seismic records going back to 1255 suggest that an earthquake like the one killing 20,000 people in the Kathmandu Valley in 1934 is long overdue. The valley is home to five major cities: Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, Kirtipur, and Thimi, where 2.5 million people live in poorly constructed housing. With just one airport and three roads to the outside world, airport preparedness to avoid congestion of incoming relief goods after a disaster is a high priority. “If the records are right, an earthquake could strike any minute,” says Joachim Keppler, GARD Global Program Manager. “We want to help Nepal prepare for the worst.”
Working with UNDP, the GARD team joined forces with the Nepalese disaster management agency and local airport authorities to adapt the model used in the Indonesian pilot roll-out of the GARD project. With the Kathmandu Valley at greatest risk, the plan takes in, besides Kathmandu Tribhuvan International (TIA), four specially selected domestic airports: Nepalgunj, Biratnagar, Simara, and Pokhara. “Targeting a single airport wouldn’t make sense.” says Keppler. “To be effective, we need a good spread.”
Spreading the expertise
In the first phase, a train-the-trainer segment, four DHL warehouse and operations experts learned all about GARD objectives and benefits. In field work at Pokahara airport, they were advised on how to assess surge capacity and logistics requirements, looking at factors such as forklift and pallet truck availability, warehouse space, and staffing needs. Locating extra space is vital – coping with an influx of aid is a major challenge. “Having deployed with the DRT in Samoa, I’ve seen the chaos that airports face. I felt I could make a difference by helping get GARD in place in Nepal,” says Gavin White, Branch Manager, DGF New Zealand. The new trainers used their knowledge to draw up standard operating procedures (SOPs) for relief surge management, and produce templates for implementing GARD at other airports.
Next up for training were local appointees from the Nepalese government and military, police, airport and customs staff. They were chosen for their experience, English skills, seniority, and potential to take on relief surge management – and to take GARD further. After a classroom phase, the trainers-to-be worked with the GARD team on a surge assessment for four domestic airports. A joint assessment followed at Kathmandu International airport. Experts from the World Food Programme and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) assisted to the training as observers and provided insights into their experience of disaster relief operations. “Disasters cannot be prevented, but good preparation and organized communications are crucial in protecting lives and property,” says Ashok Regmi, Nepal Army Engineering Directorate.
Nepal’s ‘GARD certified’ airports are now relief surge ready, and have a toolkit of templates for future preparedness programs. Their new experts can do the contingency planning, and provide the necessary photographic and written updates to liaise with national disaster management authorities in the relief supply chain. Plus, they have the skills to plan and lead a GARD team in assessing and building relief surge capacities at other airports. “Indonesia and Nepal are crucial milestones,” says Susanne Meier, Director, CSR Strategy and Policy at deutsche post DHL in Bonn, Germany. “The lessons learned will give us first choice input to fine-tune GARD before taking it to other disaster-prone countries in Asia and the Americas.” With GARD and the DRT, the Deutsche Post DHL Group is making disaster management more efficient and more effective.