"Analytical & thorough"
Ms. Birk, how does a GARD workshop work?
Anna Birk: Airport staff members, along with disaster management and customs agency employees, first need to understand the challenges they are likely to face in a disaster scenario. Aid workers and relief supplies pour into the country and, at the same time, victims of the natural disaster are all trying to get out. It is by no means business as usual, and by no means calm and orderly! Our teams experienced this in the Philippines in November 2013. After Typhoon Haiyan wreaked its destruction, the Mactan-Cebu Airport became the main transport hub for the relief effort. But it’s a small airport, which normally handles only a few cargo planes per year. During the relief effort, several cargo planes were landing each day.
How can airports prepare for this wave of relief aid?
Anna Birk: A risk analysis must be performed before concrete measures can be taken. The UNDP has analyzed different regions around the world to identify the threats and determine how many people in each region would have to be supplied with relief goods via the airport. We draw on our partner’s data and then analyze the airport’s capacity in terms of logistics. This involves an 80-page questionnaire full of detailed questions, which is completed during the course of the workshops and on-site inspections.
Could you give us some examples of the questions asked?
Anna Birk: The questions address warehousing options for relief supplies, including cold storage for medical supplies, as well as the airport's electric power supply and communications infrastructure. They cover issues such as security – whether the airport is protected against looting, for instance – and authorization, i.e. who is authorized to pick up relief supplies at the airport. Effective disaster management also means having a plan for a range of “secondary” issues. For example, there are often large numbers of aid workers stationed at the airport. How do you supply all of these people with food and drink? Where do you set up the press center? All of this is part of the emergency strategy. Of course you still need to improvise a lot in the event of a disaster. But an organized, methodical approach can help the relief organizations save valuable time.
Anna Birk is the GARD Program Manager