ATLANTA - UPS announced a charitable initiative to create logistics emergency teams (LETs) for American Red Cross chapters in Atlanta, Houston, New Orleans and the San Francisco Bay area, expanding the reach of the company's urgent humanitarian relief program.

Through this effort, UPS will provide logistics expertise, transportation and warehousing to local Red Cross disaster services coordinators in the event of a large-scale emergency.

“This program sets it up so there will be a coordinator in each location,” said Ronna Branch, a UPS spokesperson. “Then they’ll work with the fleet managers or the package center managers. It depends on what the needs are for that particular time.”

To support planning for disaster response and post-crisis recovery efforts, assigned UPS LET coordinators will work with each Red Cross chapter on needed logistics by providing volunteers, transporting supplies to affected areas and allocating space for storage.

“[UPS] is designating people internally,” Branch said. “There will be a person who is trained by the Red Cross on what their needs are in case of an emergency. They’ll work with their location to allocate services to help [the Red Cross]. The coordinators will be Red Cross trained. They’ve been doing that for years, and they have special skills that they need to get the job done.”

According to UPS, its drivers won’t need much retraining as the company has already trained them to drive in inclement weather.

“For the most part our drivers are pretty well trained for the weather conditions,” Branch said. “We’ve been doing this and sharing our fleets and facilities for years. It’s just a matter of us doing this in special allocations for the Red Cross.”

"The LETs initiative leverages the capacity and resources of UPS's U.S. network to support the Red Cross with our mutual goal of providing more effective and efficient relief for devastated communities," said Myron Gray, UPS senior vice president of U.S. operations. "The LETs program with the American Red Cross in the U.S. is another component in UPS's continued commitment to leveraging its people, logistics expertise and global network to provide urgent humanitarian relief all around the world."

In collaboration with global humanitarian relief partners, UPS has provided dollars, expertise and people in recent emergencies including the tsunami in Southeast Asia, Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake in Haiti and the Chilean mine disaster.

By Cathy Stevens, with additional reporting by Greg Basich