General overview of the ERU system
Emergency Response Units (ERUs) were created in 1994 as part of the globaldisaster response system. They are to be used in large emergency response operations, when global assistance is needed and the Federation’s delegations and the affected National Society (NS) cannot respond alone. ERUs provide specific services where local capacity is insufficient to cope and are deployed to complement the work of a NS. By providing specific technical services, they enable the NS to focus on their strategic approach to the emergency response.
An ERU is a team of trained technical specialists deployed at short notice and a pre-packed set of standardised equipment to support the delivery of their objectives. They are designed to be self-sufficient for one month and can operate for up to four months, with the possibility of extending further if required. The ERUs are vital in the IFRC’s disaster response system. When the term is used within the Movement, it covers both the team of specialists and the kit they deploy with. However, an ERU deployment can also mean a single delegate with a laptop and a satellite phone.
There are different types of ERUs, and one or more of them can be called to the same disaster, depending on the specific needs in the affected region. They are called upon after initial assessment of the post-disaster needs.
National Societies can choose whether they want to hold an ERU; if they do, they are free to choose which type of ERU they wish to maintain. When an NS commits to maintaining an ERU, this usually means that it will maintain standard equipment and a roster of on-call specialists (who it will recruit, train, develop and commit to periods of availability). In some exceptional cases, an NS will maintain a roster of personnel and only deploy them into another NS’s ERU (so they do not own a complete ERU).
When an ERU is deployed, it is expected that the deploying NS can cover the funding of the team and its kit for four months. ERU personnel can only deploy for four weeks at a time, and when the fourth rotation of personnel leaves the operation, a handover plan must be in place to plan for the next stage of the operation.
The need for assistance may continue beyond an ERU’s four-month operational period. If so, the service can be managed by the IFRC’s ongoing operation, the host National Society, the local government or other organisations.
Different types of ERUs
There are ten different types of table and list below). The National Societies listed below can be supported by other National Societies with trained personnel and can share resources but should be considered as leads in case of joint deployments.(see
- Logistics ERU
- To manage the arrival of large amounts of goods either flown in by air or trucked and shipped in, the clearance of these goods, their storage and subsequent distribution.
- The unit is also responsible for the reporting on these items (it tracks all incoming goods according to a ‘mobilisation table’ and pipeline documents) and fleet management. In addition, the unit supports the clearance of other ERUs, which often arrive with heavy equipment, and a large part of the logistics ERU mandate revolves around capacity building.
- The logistics ERU does not provide procurement services to other ERUs, PNSs or the HNS. Optional additions to standard kit (available upon request, though not held by all NS): four-wheel drive, forklift.
- British Red Cross, Swiss Red Cross, Danish Red Cross, Finnish Red Cross, Spanish Red Cross
- IT and Telecommunications ERU
- To establish local communication networks and links, to help ensure the smooth flow of information in the operation. To assist the Host National Society with its communication systems.
- American Red Cross, Austrian Red Cross, Danish Red Cross, New Zealand Red Cross, Spanish Red Cross
- WatSan module 15
- To provide treatment and distribution of up to 225,000 litres of water a day for a population of 15,000 people, with a storage capacity of 200,000 litres a day. This unit can also provide basic sanitation and hygiene promotion for up to 5,000 people.
- The module is designed to respond to scattered populations. It is flexible and can deploy as several stand-alone units for up to five different locations.
- Integrated in this M15 is the distribution and capacity for the transport of treated water to dispersed populations, with a capacity of up to 75,000 litres a day and the option to set up different storage and distribution points.
- Austrian Red Cross, French RC, German RC, Spanish RC
- WatSan module 40
- To provide treatment and distribution of water for larger populations. The unit can treat up to 600,000 litres a day for a population of up to 40,000 people. As with the M15 unit, the M40 has an integrated distribution capacity for the transport of treated water to dispersed populations.
- Austrian RC, French RC, German RC, Swedish RC
- Mass Sanitation module 20
- To provide basic sanitation facilities (latrines, vector control and solid waste disposal) for up to 20,000 people, to initiate hygiene promotion programmes and to provide dead body management services.
- Optional additions to standard kit (available upon request although not held by all NS): flat-pack latrines, diggers.
- Austrian Red Cross, British Red Cross, German Red Cross, Spanish Red Cross, Swedish Red Cross
- Referral Hospital ERU
- First-level field hospital, providing referral-level multi-disciplinary care to a population of up to 250,000 people. The inpatient capacity ranges from 75–150 beds, providing surgery, limited traumatology, anaesthesia, internal medicine gynaecology, obstetrics and paediatrics.
- It consists of one or two operating theatres, a delivery room, inpatient wards and treatment areas, X-ray and a laboratory. It also provides an outpatient department and an emergency room to ensure the treatment of casualties.
- The unit needs to be self-sufficient, and therefore includes supporting modules such as administration, IT and telecom, water and power supply, staff accommodation and vehicles.
- Finnish Red Cross, German Red Cross, Norwegian Red Cross
- Rapid Deployment Hospital
- A specifically modified, lighter version of the Referral Hospital ERU, which can deploy within 48 hours of alert and offers medical and surgical interventions, such as triage, first aid and medevac.
- It also has limited medical/surgical care, including an outpatient department. It can function for up to ten days, pending the arrival of a more complete hospital or a Basic Healthcare ERU. It can also be used as mobile clinic if required at a later phase of operation.
- Canadian Red Cross, Finnish RC, German RC, Norwegian RC
- Basic Healthcare ERU
- To provide immediate basic curative, preventive and community healthcare for up to 30,000 beneficiaries, using a modular approach adjusting to local needs and according to WHO basic protocols. The unit deploys with the Interagency Emergency Health Kit. The unit can deliver basic outpatient clinic services, maternal-child health (including uncomplicated deliveries), community health outreach, immunisation and nutritional surveillance.
- It does not function as a hospital but has 10–20 overnight bed-capacity for observation.
- This ERU also requires the availability of local health staff and interpreters to support services and should have the agreement of the local health authorities for the ERU expatriate (doctors/nurses) to provide healthcare.
- Canadian RC, Finnish RC, German RC, Norwegian RC, French RC, Japanese RC
- Relief ERU
- To support the Host National Society to undertake relief assessments, targeted beneficiary selection and to assist in the set-up of food and NFI distribution, as well as compile relief distribution statistics.
- This ERU can also assist in the setting up of camps and works closely with the Logistics ERU. The Relief ERU can set up cash-based responses to the emergency, in which case the collaboration with logistics is strengthened.
- American Red Cross, Benelux Red Cross, Danish Red C, Finnish RC, French RC, Spanish RC
- Base camp ERU
- To provide staff engaged in emergency operations with appropriate living and working conditions. The Base Camp ERU offers tented accommodation (conditioned for hot and cold climates), toilets, hot showers, recreational facilities, a kitchen, offices, administrative, IT/communication and coordination facilities, in locations where these are not available for RCRC staff.
- Danish Red Cross, Italian Red Cross
Download a table detailing all ERU types here.
British Red Cross ERUs
The British Red Cross has chosen to maintain two Logisticsand one ERU. The kit required for those three teams is stored at the international warehouse in Bulwick, Northamptonshire.
For more information about the warehouse, see the Bulwick international warehouse standard operating procedure or contact the warehouse officer.
The Logistics ERUs
British Red Cross stores enough kit and personnel to deploy two simultaneous Logistics table for a detailed description of the objectives of the Logistics ERU.. See above
The standard kit content designed by standard products catalogue (code ULOGLOGI). In agreement with the IFRC, however, the British Red Cross has made some additions and modifications to the standard list (see above for details of optional additions to and Logistics ERU kit).is available from the IFRC
For a detailed content list of the British Red Cross ERU kit, contact thelogistics team.
Logistics ERU teams are made up of:
- a team leader
- a warehouse and transport delegate
- an airops delegate
- one or two supply chain administration delegates.
Detailed role descriptions for each of the above roles are available from the logistics team.
Previous deployments of the Logistics ERUs include:
- Honduras in 2021
- Dominica in 2017
- Greece, Vanuatu and Liberia in 2015
- The Philippines in 2014
- Chad in 2013.
For more information on deployments, contact the logistics team.
The National Societies that maintain a Logistics ERU have created a technical working group (TWG) to share experiences and challenges, under the sponsorship of the IFRC. The group meets once a year for a two-day conference, gathering representatives of the Swiss, Danish, Finnish, Spanish and British Red Cross, as well as theand IFRC. The agenda and minutes of the TWG meetings can be shared upon request.
For more details about management of the Logistics ERU, see the ERU standard operating procedure developed by the logistics team.
The MSM20 ERU
The British Red Cross stores enough kit and personnel to deploy one Mass Sanitation Management table for a detailed description of the objectives of the MSM20 ERU.. See the above
The standard kit content designed by standard products catalogue (code UWATMMSMCOMP). In agreement with the IFRC, however, the British Red Cross has made some additions and modifications to the standard list. To see a detailed content list of the British Red Cross ERU kit, please contact the logistics team.is available from the IFRC
MSM ERU teams are made up of:
- a team leader
- a sanitation engineer
- a hygiene promoter
- one or two specialist support delegates.
Detailed role descriptions for each of the above roles are available from the logistics team.
Previous deployments of the MSM ERUs include:
- Mozambique in 2019
- Uganda in 2017
- Bangladesh (Cox’s Bazaar) in 2017
- Greece in 2015
- Nepal in 2015
- Mozambique in 2013.
Read the next section on ERU Human resources, ERU equipment and financial responsibilities here.
Download the full section here.
The 11 major rules of running a warehouse:
- Rotate stock so old goods are used first: FIFO (first in, first out). If goods have an expiry date, use FEFO (first expired, first out).
- Stack goods safely.
- Plan the layout of goods for easy access and finding them again.
- Record all movements or losses on the correct forms.
- File all papers immediately.
- Plan ahead: what goods, staff and transport will be required in the next day, week or month?
- Keep goods secure.
- Keep warehouse clean, with daily, weekly and monthly cleaning.
- Dispose of spoiled goods correctly and quickly.
- Communicate objectives, plans, progress and issues effectively.
- Conduct physical inventory on a regular basis.
A warehouse is defined as a planned space for the storage and handling of goods and materials. Goods and materials stored in a warehouse are considered as stock, which is also called “inventory”. Warehouses are an integral part of the supply chain, their main purpose being to serve as physical transit points between supply (delivery from suppliers) and demand (end-users or beneficiaries).
Where needed, warehouses allow for the breakdown of bulk deliveries across different requestors or into phased deliveries, and for the combination of loose items into kits to meet beneficiaries’ needs.
A well-managed and well-positioned warehouse allows for speedy responses to both planned and unplanned needs and ensures that both inventory and staff are ready to respond to planned and unplanned needs.
Functions of a warehouse
View and download a detailed diagram of warehouse functions here.
Different types of inventory
It is important to be aware of the difference between stock (inventory), office supplies, office equipment and assets:
|Consumable items that are
tracked and stored until
use or distribution
|Temporary or disposable
consumables, food or cleaning
products required on a
day-to-day basis, for use
in the office or residence
| £1,000 or
> 3 years useful life or
Powered by electricity or
Incurs running costs or
Defined as asset by donor
|Programme supplies for
Office supplies for
distribution to beneficiaries,
Vehicle spare parts, fuel
Office cleaning materials
Food for office consumption
Large household appliances
|In the office
|In use or in storeroom*
|In use or in storeroom*
*The storeroom is typically a small room in the office where a small stock of office supplies is kept
Available to download here.
Purposes of holding stock
The main purpose of stock is to de-couple supply and demand in an operation that requires the provision of pre-determined goods and materials.
In an ideal world:
- exact needs are known
- suppliers are reliable
- supply is stable
- infrastructure is stable
- there is little to no need for inventory.
In the humanitarian world:
- needs fluctuate unpredictably
- suppliers are liable to multiple risks (environmental, political, financial)
- supply is often interrupted
- infrastructure is exposed to multiple risks (environmental, political, financial)
- inventory acts as a buffer against structural risks.
Generally, stock is owned by its original requestor (the person who pays for the goods) and physical management of items and materials is delegated to logistics.
This means that logistics cannot choose to increase or decrease stocks unilaterally and that updates on inventory must be shared between the logistics team and the owners of the stock managed in the delegation.
In that sense, logistics is responsible for the inventory it holds for others, but requestors and programme managers are accountable for the type and quantity of items they require logistics to hold in stock for their use.
Stocks management – roles and responsibilities
RACI matrices are used throughout this manual. They break a process into steps, specifying who is Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed at each step of the process.
|Warehousing & Stock
Health and safety
Available to download here.
The valuation of inventory is critical for the organisation to manage the risk of ownership of stock in general, and in particular to support the definition of insurance requirements.
Financial management of stocks
The general concepts to bear in mind are:
- Inventory held by international logistics for preparedness purposes is valued in collaboration with the logistics finance business partner, based on procurement information shared by the logistics team.
- The value of inventory held by logistics sits on the British Red Cross balance sheet from the moment stock is received to the moment it is dispatched for use.
- When stock is dispatched for use, the value of the dispatched items is charged to its requestor and taken off the British Red Cross balance sheet.
- When stock needs to be disposed of, logistics must use a write-off form to record the disposal. The value of the disposed items is usually charged to the logistics budget and taken off the British Red Cross balance sheet.
See the Disposing of and writing off stocks and Writing off obsolete assets sections for more details on stock write-offs.
Note: it is recommended that the members of the logistics team who manage stock regularly meet with both their requestors and the finance team to review current stock type, levels and locations, discuss proposed changes (if any), ensure budget management and reconcile stock. In the British Red Cross, the logistics team meet with owners of the stock they manage (ERU kits, RLU representatives) and with their finance business partner on a regular basis.
Within the Red Cross Movement, stocks are held at different levels and the processes to follow to access stock vary between levels of storage:
- This is stock that is available in country.
- Locally available stock can belong to the country’s or to a partner NS and would include the kits that a chooses to hold for -led responses.
- NS that do not hold ERUs may also have stocks available in country, either for ongoing programmes or for preparedness purposes.
- This is stock that is held in regional hubs.
- In RLUs (Kuala Lumpur in Asia, Panama City in Americas), stocked by the IFRC and other PNSs and managed by the IFRC.
- In sub-regional warehouses or in decentralised regional stores (“cluster warehouses”), in Harare, Douala and Dakar.
- This is stock that is held in IFRC-managed global hubs.
- The Dubai and Las Palmas logistics centres are “global hubs”, serving all regions equally.
The IFRC’s global stock strategy aims are:
To cover the initial needs of the immediate aftermath of any disaster, the IFRC, with the stock pre-positioning of their members in the different RLU, has pre-positioned emergency response stockpiles in their network of regional warehouses across the globe, which could support up to 450,000 people at anytime and anywhere.
Read the next section on Building a stock strategy here.