Responding to an 'Emergency' at the Logistics Response Team Training

The water is out again. No showers! Who knows if this a coincidence, or perhaps a part of the simulation? We can’t be sure; the scenario has to be realistic as possible... In the fictitious country of Brindland, a natural disaster has devastated the population, damaged infrastructure, and in some cases, has cut off the humanitarian community from getting aid to the most remote and hard-to-reach populations.

The challenges are big, and time is ticking. Over two million people need your help.This is the tall order presented to you if you’re a participant of the Logistics Response Team Training (LRT), jointly created by WFP and the Logistics Cluster.  About 20 logisticians from different humanitarian organizations have come to this LRT, hosted by UNHRD and held in Brindisi, Italy from 29 September to 6 October 2012.

Described by participants as one of the best emergency simulations around, it prepares both rookie and seasoned logisticians for a sudden, onset disaster – using the ‘Cluster’ approach.  Once there, participants are divided into two emergency response teams. Their task? To rapidly assess the situation, determine whether activation of a Logistics Cluster is necessary and/or what logistics support might be needed. 

logistics clusterAs 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, and the LRT is one of them.

In the initial stages of an emergency, real information is precious – and also hard to come by. Wading through piles of news reports and initial assessments, the two teams scramble to piece together a picture of the logistics needs, infrastructure and challenges, based off of what they understand to be the current situation in Brinland. Much like a real emergency, aid workers are a rare breed that operate on 16 hour days, taking the few odd hours to rest and devour a few pieces of bread, cheese and endless amounts of coffee… 

LRT training

Without the generosity of our donors, who have ensured that the LRT training continues, WFP and the Logistics Cluster would not be able to give this opportunity to over 50 logisticians each year. Emma sums this up really well:

“Donors are such a fundamental part of what we do, and their generosity for projects and trainings like this really make this possible, so we very grateful to them, as well as the team of the World Food Programme who put together this training. It’s been an intense and incredibly valuable learning experience for all of us.”

“We’ve been sleep deprived, we’ve gone through practical exercises, we’ve submitted documents and really worked together as a team -- and as a Logistics Cluster would in an emergency,” explains Emma Maspero, a Logistics Specialist from UNICEF.

As a 6-day simulation training, 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.  From start to finish, the LRT takes the first three months of a sudden, onset emergency and crunches it into one full week.

At the end of the day, how did it go? We asked participant Sheaona Grant, a Supply Chain Advisor at Concern Worldwide what she thought about being placed in the shoes of the Logistics Cluster.

“I think it’s really helped by giving us the opportunity to do the tasks they do in reality. So we have a much better understanding of what they do and how they can help us as agencies, together responding in an emergency,” she says. In an emergency it’s no secret among aid workers that you don’t get much rest – especially during an emergency simulation!"