Unfortunately, for many parts of the world, dealing with the effects of natural disasters is an essential part of forward planning. This is particularly the case for airports situated in disaster-prone areas such as Southeast Asia and South America. When events such as hurricanes or earthquakes occur, airports often act as a refuge for people fleeing the chaos they create, hoping for passage out of the disaster-struck area. Airports are also the main point of contact for incoming humanitarian aid and relief workers.

In recent cases such as Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines or the Nepal earthquakes, the role of airports in mitigating the humanitarian damage has been invaluable. However, it is often the case that airports simply are not equipped  to handle these extreme circumstances. The 2010 earthquakes in Haiti are a prime example of the mayhem that can occur when airports are not prepared for the aftermath of catastrophic events.

To ensure that airports are adequately prepared for potential natural disasters, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have been working with logistical experts from Deutsche Post DHL Group (DHL) to develop the ‘Get Airports Ready for Disaster’ (GARD) programme. The GARD team have now worked with roughly 30 airports in high-risk areas to help develop strategies to cope with the higher levels of unscheduled air cargo arrivals, which cause disruption to normal airport operations, and the lack of staff that these situations would create.

To make sure that the strategies taught through the GARD programme have been properly learned and retained, UNDP and DHL introduced a series of ‘GARD plus’ programme in 2014.