Iran is among the top 10 disaster prone countries in the world. It is confronted with more than 34 out of 41 types of the world’s known natural disasters.
When a disaster strikes, providing support to those in need depends on good communications and logistics.
Airports are central to the relief effort.
But in many countries the level of preparedness required – the level of planning – and practice – in how to operate in the “boiler house” of a real emergency – is often sadly lacking.
That is why Deutsche Post DHL Group and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have put together a training programme to help countries build their resilience by “Get Airports Ready for Disaster” – or GARD.
The GARD training helps those organizations and aid agencies involved in emergency and early recovery exercises better understand the processes at the airport in the aftermath of a disaster in order to have effective coordination.
The GARD training at Mehrabad airport which started on 25 November coincided, sadly, with the immediate aftermath of the deadly Kermanshah earthquake. But the timing is extremely relevant, given the nature of the disaster.
The training was organized by DHL and UNDP, in collaboration with Iran Airports and Air Navigation Company.
The event was officially inaugurated on 25 November in the presence of Mr. Rahmatollah Mahabadi, Chairman of the Board and CEO of Iran Airports and Air Navigation Company, Mr. Behrooz Darabi, DHL Iran General Manager, Mr. Gary Lewis, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative along with other government officials, airport authorities and the media.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Mr. Mahabadi said: “Natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes and storms have resulted in loss of life and negative social and economic consequences along with major loss of inhabitants […] GARD will enable us to better respond to disasters and help the communities in need. This workshop will create a platform which will enable our local authorities to share their experiences and lessons learnt, and also learn from international experts’ best practices and experiences. We are pleased to partner with the UN – specifically UNDP and UNOCHA to organize this workshop.”
On behalf of the United Nations, Mr. Lewis extended condolences to all those affected by the earthquake which hit western parts of Iran on 12 November.
Mr. Lewis then went on to talk about the emergency phase of responding to a disaster. In this regard he said: “In order to be effective during the emergency phase, three things are needed:
- The first is leadership.
- The second is communications.
- The third is logistical efficiency.
All of those things are brought together if we have an effective airport system.”
He added: “I was pleased when I was in Kermanshah, yesterday, to meet many people who had been engaged in the Bam earthquake relief operation and who said that we have learnt so much as a country in those 14 years that we could apply it more effectively to the Kermanshah earthquake.”
In regard to GARD being held in Iran, Mr. Lewis said: “This initiative which, in English, is called GARD which stands for Get Airports Ready for Disasters, is something that has a very interesting story behind […] In a very strange way, GARD is coming home. As of today, GARD has been delivered and has provided training in over 20 counties and in over 43 airports. About 1,000 people have received this training. But, not many people know that the actual content of the training was derived from lessons learned in Bam, 14 years ago, here in Iran. And that is the reason I said earlier that GARD is actually coming home for the very first time, today.”
“GARD comes home”
Make a reference to the fact that the overall idea for GARD started in 2003 from lessons learnt in the Bam earthquake. We need to sell this story to an Iranian audience and this is a major catch. Or do a second story with only that angle.
He concluded his remarks by saying: “We can have all the strength in the world that we may possess, but unless we have knowledge, we will not be able to maximize the impact of that strength.”
Mr. Darabi also spoke at the event, stating: “GARD is a long-term strategic plan. This workshop allows for humanitarian aid workers, logistics specialists and local authorities to come together for exchange of information and to create a network that will enable them to better respond when, and if a disaster strikes.”
The opening ceremony of GARD was also attended by Dr. Hanachi, Deputy Technical and Development Officer of Tehran Municipality, Dr. Rezaei, Chairperson of the Civil Affairs Committee of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, Dr. Fakhriya Kashan, Deputy Minister of Roads and Urban Development, Dr. Najjar, Deputy Minister of the Interior, and Head of the National Disaster Management Organization, Sardar Mehri, Police Chief of Airports, Dr. Farzaneh Sharfabafi, CEO of Iran Air and Mr. Khodayi, Deputy Chairman of the Civil Aviation Organization.
The workshop will be last till 29 November. During the workshop, the participants and trainers will evaluate the current level of preparedness at the airport, conduct training exercises, and develop specific recommendations and an action plan that ensures Mehrabad International Airport is prepared for future disasters.