Simulating an emergency response in Brindisi

08 December 2009

A deserted military base in the southern tip of Italy became a makeshift hub for coordinating relief supplies for earthquake-affected populations in ‘Brinland’ – a fictional country in the scenario used by the Global Logistics Cluster to train logistics officers from around the world on how to assess the need for a Logistics Cluster activation and be part of a Logistics Cluster response team.

The Logistics Response Team (LRT) training, from 22-29 Nov, was the sixth in the series of trainings run by WFP’s Logistics Development Unit based around real-time response to an earthquake. Twenty staff from NGOs and UN agencies formed two inter-agency teams ‘deployed’ at the onset of the emergency to conduct a rapid logistics assessment and coordinate the logistics response on behalf of the humanitarian community. A team of experienced facilitators drawn from NGOs and UN agencies operating in humanitarian emergencies played the part of government, humanitarian actors and donors, to bring the scenario to life.

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At the end, participants reported that the training had replicated the feel of a real emergency, so much so that pressure to perform all the tasks in such a short time; drawing up an operational response plan, chairing coordination meetings and presenting to donors, was almost too intense. The constantly changing situation and different information flows – sometimes conflicting information – was also true to life. Interactions with government and other humanitarian agencies featured lively discussions and the eruption of the occasional conflict which required negotiation skills to resolve.  An external facilitator remarked that: “the training was very well structured to effectively simulate an emergency response, requiring participants to utilise an appropriate set of skills to handle logistics coordination”.

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The overall goal of the training is to develop emergency response management knowledge and capacities of senior logistics managers to enhance the logistics capacity in emergencies and to build up a roster of logistics officers for deployment with the Logistics Cluster. Trainees from previous LRTs have had the chance to test the relevance of the training during emergency deployment with the Logistics Cluster, most recently to the Philippines.

Samuel Falsis (IOM): “In my case, the LRT training was definitely very useful for my deployment.  Almost all tasks that I did and the scenarios I faced were simulated in the training, including coordinating with government agencies, private partners and other humanitarian actors on the ground. The training equipped me with confidence to think quickly and get the job done well.”

Gerry Magbity (UNICEF): “During the training, meetings with different groups representing humanitarian partners and donors were useful – learning negotiation skills for dealing with authorities and other actors is really important for being deployed to the field. Sometimes this can be a fine balancing act.”

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The training also recognises the ongoing need for improved awareness of humanitarian reform and the cluster approach amongst humanitarian workers. Since the first training in April 2007 there has also been an effort to ensure that participants leave with sufficient understanding of the approach to be able to pass the message to their own organisations. Feedback from participants indicates that this element of the training should continue.

With thanks to the organisations involved in the sixth LRT training, Brindisi, 22-29 Nov: ACF International Network, WVI, ICRC, IFRC, Solidarités, Merlin, Save the Children, MSB, FAO, IOM, UNOCHA, WHO, UNICEF, UNDSS, WFP, CARE, FAO, MIT.

The Logistics Response Team training is funded through a multi-donor project; different branches of WFP’s Logistics Division contribute to the design and implementation under the overall lead of the Logistics Development Unit, on behalf of the Global Logistics Cluster.

Photos: David Del Conte, Baptiste Burgaud, Harin Abeyaratne, Vanessa Centofanti

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The Logistics Response Team training is supported by ECHO: http://ec.europa.eu/echo/index_en.htm

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