A Glimpse into the Logistics Response Team Training

WFP Senior Logistics Officer Anthony Freeman with Head of the Global Logistics Cluster, Thomas Thompson. Copyright: WFP/Logistics Development Unit

"Its 5am and as usual I’m awake before the alarm. Today I’m a little nervous, anxious even, in particular about my assignment; team leader of ‘Brin 2’, a fictional logistics response team, deployed to a fabricated earthquake in an invented country, all conceived and conjured up in the mind of Bernard Chomilier – head of the Logistics Development Unit (LDU) at WFP and the Wizard of Logs…. 

The team and I leave the hotel at 0630, exactly 72hrs after the fictitious earthquake, measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale, devastated Brinland. Four members of the team are to remain in the Capital; the other six team members are deployed to the forward base station, where they will set-up camp. We’ve been briefed by Security on the Do’s & Dont’s and issued with an itinerary of the day’s meetings & briefings – a long list of who’s who from other UN Agencies, NGOs, Government officials etc. The day will end in a meeting of the logistics community to present findings and proposed Concept of Operations of the 'LRT Brin 2' team."

And so the story goes. These are the words of Senior Logistics Officer Tony Freeman. Tony recently attended the 8th Logistics Response Team (LRT) training that was held in Brindisi, Italy earlier this month.  As the recognized leader in the field of humanitarian logistics, WFP has undertaken several capacity building initiatives aimed at developing the logistics response of the humanitarian community in a coordinated fashion. The LRT is one of those initiatives.

Together with the Logistics Cluster, the Logistics Development Unit (LDU) created the LRT training. It is a 6-day simulation training that prepares skilled logisticians from various humanitarian organisations to be rapidly deployed to emergencies to assess the situation, determine whether activation of a Logistics Cluster is needed and/or what logistics support might be needed, and assume an initial coordination role, if required. The LRT allows participants to apply their skills and knowledge in a real disaster situation, with a strong multi-organisation facilitation team supporting them and providing them with necessary guidance and feedback. But first, as Tony's story continues, the scene has to be set:

"Punta della Contessa is the location of the forward response base, a relatively short drive south from Brindisi and perched on lands edge, facing the Adriatic Sea. This is to be our home for the coming week, a collection of prefabs for office & accommodation, laid out at the foot of an old watch-tower. Across from the coastal scrub, located in a similar establishment and kept clandestine from the participants, the “wizard” and his “umpa-lumpa’s” send out a barrage of emails interjecting information, some of it relevant some of it not so, building the scenario, adding confusion, clarification and at some point confirmation on what my team is expected to accomplish."

Since it first started in 2007, more than 155 logisticians from 38 different organisations and partners have been trained.  In addition, 120 senior logisticians from different humanitarian organisations have been facilitators. 

If you ask Bernard, he’ll tell you the key to the success of this training has been the element of surprise. And indeed the training has been a huge success.  ‘The goal is really to make this as realistic as possible so that participants really do feel prepared for what hits them when they are in the first days of an emergency response.’

And Tony?  What does he think?
"…The teams of Brin 1 and 2 certainly came away with a greater understanding in respect of the needs of one another, our different agency expectations and how, with a little bit of teamwork, common sense and a load of espresso, the seemingly impossible tasks are indeed possible. Although this doesn’t do justice in describing the effort and preplanning that has gone into making the LRT as realistic a scenario as possible, further accolades will be awarded by the contribution and efforts of those participants in real emergencies to come."  

Other initiatives by LDU have produced great results.  Indeed external partners are now requesting support. UNICEF asked LDU to develop their new Emergency Response Simulation training that brings together supply, logistics, WASH, nutrition, education, health, protection etc.. in an emergency setting.  Two trainings have been successfully completed with a third set for January, 2011.  In addition, National Disaster Management Units also looked to LDU to support their capacity building efforts.  A humanitarian supply chain management training was held in Abuja for the Nigeria NEMA and a similar r training is planned early December for the UAE.

For more information, please contact Bernard Chomilier.

You can find Tony’s full story on the Logistics Cluster website.