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Key takeaways

  • Logistics skills play a critical role in the immediate aftermath of any natural disaster.
  • A rapid influx of aid can easily overwhelm damaged airports and other infrastructure in disaster zones.
  • DHL’s Disaster Responses Teams (DRT) Asia Pacific use basic supply chain process to quickly and efficiently distribute aid in any crisis.

Logistics skills can save lives when natural disasters strike. The logistic company announced its first Disaster Response Team (DRT), called the DHL DRT Asia Pacific, headquartered in Singapore back in 2006. It is the first visible product of DHL’s strategic partnership with the UN System in the field of Disaster Management. The task of the DRT is to ensure that relief reaches people quickly and effectively by reducing bottlenecks at airports close to the scene of major natural disasters.

Earlier this month in Malaysia, a devastating flash flood had hit Penang and badly affected those who lived there. Many homes were destroyed, belongings lost, and victims of the flood had to seek temporary shelters until it was safe to return to the affected areas. With that, DHL Malaysia activated its global team by shipping 26 units of water filters and two cartridges from Dubai to the relief centres in Penang. The estimated donated amount was RM21,320.

On the 1st October 2009, DHL deployed a Disaster Response Team (DRT) to the capital of Philippines, Malina and helped to manage the expected surge in air cargo operations at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, thereby reducing bottlenecks and keeping the airport open for additional relief flights. The team set up logistics for the handling of all kinds of relief goods such as tents, tarpaulins, food, clothing, medicines and water purifying equipment. A temporary, professional warehouse was also at the airport, including sorting and making a full inventory of donated goods.

The Disaster Response Team (DRT) also deployed a team to Padang Airport in Indonesia at the invitation of the United Nations to handle first incoming aircrafts, bringing in medical supplies and generators. The DRT was on standby to help on the expected surge in air cargo operations at the Padang Airport, thereby reducing bottlenecks and keeping the airport open for additional relief flights. There were 10 trained DHL volunteers, coming from the DRT Asia Pacific in Singapore and the DRT Middle East in Dubai. While providing professional warehouse at the airport, the team also ensured the speedy loading of aid onto trucks or helicopters.

It is essential to have a team of experienced logistics personnel during disaster period. The volunteers of DHL DRT are experience and will be able to instinctively put in place procedures that helped the distribution process run more smoothly and provide visibility to the various (other aid) organizations.

With the aid pouring in, DHL DRT team will be able to provide professional expertise and made it relatively easy for aid groups to organize onward distribution. DRT will also be able to bring together DHL experts in customs clearance, inventory management, and express deliveries, allowing them to improve the flow of aid goods from start to finish. The team is also able to work with their local colleagues to turn all DHL offices into drop-off points for donations of emergency supplies – ensuring that local communities’ good intentions wouldn’t go to waste.

DHL is honoured to be able to make a difference to the lives. It was very rewarding to be a part of the logistical supply chain for food, shelter and medical equipment and then to travel to remote villages to witness these goods being used to help the villagers through an extremely difficult time.

A version of this article first appeared on Logistics of Things.