When I was flown to the Philippines to be part of DHL‘s Disaster Response Team I had no idea what to expect. Normally I work as an Express Compliance Officer at DHL Express in Hong Kong, so this mission was nothing I could prepare myself for physically or emotionally.
We were based at Mactan Cebu Airport, where commercial cargo aircraft would land and offload relief goods such as tents, blankets, medical supplies, kitchenware, solar lamps, and generators. There could be four 747s unloading 400 tones of goods which would be left all over the airstrip. Our logistics expertise was used to coordinate that offload with NGOs (Non Governmental Organizations) and the military, so that the right goods could be loaded as quickly as possible onto Hercules C130 transporter aircraft and taken to those who needed them most. It was a big job: it could take a day to line up 100 tonnes of commercial pallets.
We were recognized by all operators as a vital link in the supply chain. At the start, though, there wasn‘t a system so it was chaotic with everyone needing help – and everything a priority. You can either be afraid of chaos or respond to it. My reaction was to respond to it.
“If people work together, they can do anything.”
At DRT, we also acted as a staging post amid all the confusion for the NGOs and military to come together to get things done. We fostered relationships with major players who felt very comfortable coming to our tent – actually our table, because at the start of the operation, we didn‘t even have a tent – to talk to us and each other. We were on a first name basis with everyone at the strip, and I like to think we had a “can do” reputation. You know: “You need something doing? Go talk to the DHL guys.” The spirit and camaraderie was amazing and we all knew what we wanted to achieve.
We were doing something positive for people in desperate need, so we wanted to do it fast – and do it well. That was the drive for everyone in the DRT. They finally had their chance to shine and, every moment, wanted to get more and more involved. Now I‘m back home, but myself and my military and NGO contacts want to build on this experience with a situation report that recognizes what went well – and also what could be done better. That means the next time this happens everyone can hit the ground running.
Working with the DRT was a lifechanging experience for me. I was in the Philippines for over three weeks, poured my heart and soul into it, made incredible friends, and I don't mind saying I was teary eyed on the plane as I was flying out. We all proved that if people work together, they can do anything.
Published: February 2014
The number of trained employees who have registered as volunteers with DHL‘s DRT network. This spans the Americas, Middle East/Africa, and Asia Pacific in order to be as close as possible to affected areas.
The number of deployments worldwide that DRTs have undertaken since 2005.
A DRT can be deployed within three days when logistics expertise is needed in a disaster situation.
Photos: Fionn Herriott(4)