UPS Foundation is more than a helping hand

A potential volunteer army of 400,000 logistics professionals allows US parcel and logistics giant UPS to provide logistical support in supplying humanitarian relief aid when global disasters strike.
The UPS Foundation recently delivered nearly 45 tonnes of American Red Cross relief supplies to help more than 50,000 residents of the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands affected by Typhoon Soudelor and tropical storm in August (2015).
UPS founder Jim Casey established The UPS Foundation in 1951 with a mission “to help build stronger and more resilient communities around the world”. In 2014 alone, the foundation was involved in the transportation of 263 shipments to 43 countries.
Last year, UPS employees (UPSers) volunteered a total of 1.9m hours to help those needing humanitarian aid, work which continues this year with the continuing Ebola outbreak in Africa, the Nepalese earthquake and the Syrian refugee crisis in Europe.
Joe Ruiz, the foundation’s humanitarian relief program director, said: “We partner with the pre-eminent relief agencies in the world and provide approximately $10m in funding and in-kind support and capacity building programmes that help the relief agencies strengthen their core capabilities to provide preparedness support, urgent response and also post crisis recovery.”
The idea of a rapid response team to offer vital logistics expertise in situ came out of the lessons learned from the 2004 Indonesian tsunami. The foundation now has close links with the Red Cross, Salvation Army, UNICEF, the World Food Programme (WFP) and UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Says Ruiz: “Since that time we have deployed UPSers around the world to over a dozen disasters within the first 72 hours. They work on the ground with the global logistics cluster to help provide what’s needed, be that customs clearance support for relief items, or whether it is deploying assets we have in the country, such as transportation and warehousing.
“We do that for about the first six weeks until the agencies can bring in the reinforcements and set up operations.”
The UPS Foundation is always looking at new ways to improve humanitarian relief delivery, developing a tracking system ─ UPS relief link ─ that helps agencies ensure the equitable distribution of food and supplies in refugee camps around the world.
Other than the resources of UPS volunteers and logistical IT software, UPS can also leverage its considerable freighter aircraft and airport hub capability to transport urgent supplies to disaster areas.
Said Ruiz: “We were very active in Nepal earlier this year, and in Africa during the Ebola epidemic, working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCS) and organisations like UNICEF.
“We flew more than 74 trucks out of Liege into West Africa, for example, and we flew out of Pakistan to support the Nepal earthquake response.”
During the current refugee crisis in Europe, which has affected the Greek islands as the first European landing point for Syrians fleeing conflict, the UPS Foundation arranged two freighter flights to Athens, one with 86 tonnes of high energy biscuits and one providing mats, blankets and comfort kits.

But no one natural disaster or man-made crisis is the same. Said Ruiz: “Logistics is the major issue because when these disasters occur in the developing world the infrastructure is not in place.
“Logistics plays a critical role in how quickly we are able to get to get things through customs and get them to warehousing where warehousing didn’t exist.”
UPS, with its parcel and heavy freight deliveries, serves more than 220 countries using a combination of more than 500 UPS and chartered aircraft. 
When an agency comes in with a request for a relief flight, there are a number of UPS “loan managers” who will get contact UPS Airline to see what the options are.
Said Ruiz: “The airline will start to assess whether we have a flight that can be repositioned and if so, when.”
Due to the urgent need of relief flights, a suitable freighter may not be available until the Saturday, for example, but then UPS can call upon a charter flight rather than one if its own “brown tail” freighters.
In one example, a Red Cross flight out of the US, the foundation was able to move a UPS Brown tail from Dallas to fly to Hawaii and then into Guam.
Flying relief aid for the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa proved a particular challenge, because there was a lack of air cargo capacity in West Africa. As a result, the UPS Foundation worked with the WFP to set up a consolidated staging area in UPS’ main regional European air hub at Cologne-Bonn airport in Germany.
It enabled more than 40 relief agencies to consolidate their goods and load them onto 10 charter flights. Added Ruiz: “The WFP came to us and said there is a capacity issue and we worked together to solve this challenge, connecting them with our hub and at the Cologne Bonn.”
Often, the aviation logistics are especially complicated. For instance, runway landing weight restrictions at Kathmandu Airport in Nepal meant that four flights were chartered, using smaller freighters with around 36 tonnes of aid relief cargo.
But rather than flying in and then moving on to the next humanitarian disaster, the UPS Foundation fulfils another role, building “resilient communities” that are better prepared for what mother nature can throw at them, for example in earthquake prone regions, be they in Turkey or Nepal.
Said Ruiz: “Our goal is to put more focus in the planning and preparedness for future events. We have created this work with National Academy of Sciences and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the US to help build more resilient communities by bringing together all the parties.”
Those parties are not just the relief agencies and the private sector but also organisations that represent the underserved communities, whether the disabled, the elderly and those least represented.
“We bring them to the table so that you can build plans that address risk.  For example, how are you going to evacuate a nursing home or a hospital?”
Ruiz added: “The key to all of this is building public-private partnerships. UPS, with its thousands of customers, can engage with those who are willing to help out. For example, there was one customer willing to provide personal protective equipment to help healthcare workers who are putting their lives at risk to save people affected by Ebola.
“So, every time something happens, we see ourselves as connectors, trying to connect the resources and our in-house assets in the country, using our global network and our people.”

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