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A Call to Action: UPS Assists Global Disaster Relief

On December 26, 2004, the world awoke to the news that a massive tsunami had struck the coasts of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, India and seven other coastal nations bordering the Indian Ocean. The 9.0 magnitude earthquake that spawned the tsunami had the longest duration ever observed, lasting between 8 and 10 minutes, and it produced waves up to 50 feet high that traveled as far as Africa, 3,000 miles from the earthquake’s epicenter.

The carnage caused by this disaster was staggering. By the end of the day, approximately 250,000 people were dead or missing and millions more left homeless. Thankfully, singular natural disasters of this scale don’t occur everyday, but the cumulative impact of the smaller but more frequently occurring earthquakes, typhoons and other phenomena cause at least as much destruction as the great Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004.

In September 2009, UPS announced a multi-year, multi-million dollar initiative to improve the capabilities of relief organizations that respond to these types of global emergencies. Recently I sat down with Dan Brutto, president of UPS International, to discuss some of the specific steps UPS is taking to help them.

Dan, why is UPS getting more involved in global disaster response and relief efforts?

Throughout our long history, UPS has always played a big role in helping the communities we serve in times of need with financial support from The UPS Foundation, in-kind shipping, employee volunteerism and other philanthropic efforts. My professional responsibilities are focused on UPS’s international business, so I took a personal interest in expanding our focus outside the U.S.    

What specifically is UPS doing?

We’re beginning an initiative focusing on disaster preparedness and relief, committing $9 million over the next two years. These funds will support some of the world’s major relief organizations like UNICEF, the World Food Programme, the American Red Cross, CARE and the Aidmatrix Foundation. The support UPS will provide will come in the form of financial grants, in-kind services and the deployment of logistics expertise, which frankly is what many of these organizations are really lacking.

Why is UPS’s logistics expertise so especially important to these organizations?

The relief organizations we work with are very good and the work they do is invaluable, but supply chain management, distribution and logistics are not their core strengths. UPS has a lot of expertise in these areas. It’s what we do every day for our customers all over the world and we also have many years of experience with disaster relief, both in the U.S. and abroad. We feel our expanded involvement in global relief efforts will go a long way in helping these organizations fulfill their mission.

You were recently appointed to the board of directors of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. How will this tie in with UPS’s broader relief efforts?

UNICEF, in addition to its role of supporting children in need around the world, is also a primary disaster response arm for the United Nations. So they play a key role in global disaster relief and are therefore an important part of our strategy. My involvement with the U.S. Fund for UNICEF will give me and UPS the opportunity to help this great organization meet the needs of people all over the world during the difficult times that always follow a natural disaster.

What other kinds of support will UPS provide to global relief agencies in the future?

An important aspect of our program is our expanded involvement in the Logistics Emergency Teams (LETs) initiative that provides logistics experts to the World Food Programme in support of the United Nations Logistics group. These experts deploy within 48-72 hours of a major natural disaster anywhere in the world. UPS has dedicated employees positioned in the Americas, Europe and Asia to serve on the LETs team who are ready to go wherever they may be needed for up to six weeks at a time. Our employees already have provided on-the-ground help in the Philippines, Padang, West Sumatra, Haiti, Bangkok (for Myanmar relief) and Indonesia.

We also have assisted CARE in defining multiple projects that will improve their supply chains in places like Indonesia, Chad and Honduras.

It’s quite an experience for our employees to find themselves in a refugee camp on the Darfur border, or in a village in Indonesia, or any of the many other places in the world where people are in great need of help. UPS employees get to see firsthand not only the extent of the problems, but also the value of what they’re doing in these areas to make things better.

You obviously have taken a very personal interest in this issue. Why is it so important to you?

Human beings can’t control the weather or any of the natural forces that impact our planet, but we can certainly have an impact on the people who suffer because of them. As we’ve seen countless times, natural disasters can strike anyone, anywhere and at any time. The relief organizations that step in to ease the suffering and improve the lives of victims of famines, floods and other natural disasters do great things, but they can’t do them alone. We can all make a difference and I’m proud that UPS is providing some substantial and meaningful support to this cause. 

Blogger’s note: For more information about UPS’s disaster relief efforts, visit www.pressroom.ups.com/Fact+Sheets/UPS+Disaster+Relief+Update

Category: Caring for Communities
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    Comments [1]

  1. Mark, this blog post obviously becomes a lot more relevant with the earthquake that just hit Haiti.
    Thanks for posting, helps UPS really walk the talk about helping in global relief efforts.
    Cheers from Canada

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