IFRC process – the Surge alert system

Following a NS request for surge capacity support, alerts will be generated from the surge capacity desk in Geneva, as per the activation procedure, which depends on the category of emergency (local, regional or global). Alerts are sent out to the rapid response personnel registered with the surge desk, and to the surge focal points within PNS (in British Red Cross, this includes members of staff from HR, logistics and emergencies).

On-call roster members will be expected to answer the alert within 24 to 48 hours in order to be able to respond to the need without any delays.

Alerts follow previous standard operating procedures with Information, Alert, Stand down and Deployment messages:

Type of alertMeaning
(I) InformationSystem members receive information of an event that may require surge support.
No response is necessary, but surge personnel to do the pre-checking for possible
deployment.
(A) AlertSent to all active participants that meet the basic required profile and surge focal points
in PNSs.
An immediate reply with details of availability is required.
(D) DeployMembers receive an alert indicating who is deploying.
Alert contains name, profile and NS.
(S) Stand downDeployment request has been cancelled.

Available to download here.

A terms of reference (ToR) for the deployment should be provided with the alert message, containing the deployment requirements in terms of both the kit and personnel.

For more details on the IFRC’s internal ERU (and other emergency response personnel) deployment procedures, see the compiled surge standard operating procedures available from the IFRC surge desk.


British Red Cross internal process

In parallel to the IFRC process, the British Red Cross will follow its own internal procedures as outlined in the Disaster Management Standard Operating Procedures (DMSOPs). The response lead ensures all decisions are logged and documented through the standard ETF/SAT records. Below is a summarised version of the British Red Cross process for deploying an ERU:

  1. IFRC contacts on-call HoE and Int HR by phone/email informing them an ERU may be required.
  2. HoE and HR to check on-call team availability, also liaising with relevant regional and technical teams.
  3. ETF held to decide whether to confirm ERU availability with IFRC and potential funding options.
  4. HoE confirms with IFRC that ERU is available.
  5. On-call HR adviser and HR assistant put the team on standby.
  6. Logistics team prepare kit requirements for ERU team.
  7. IFRC receives all offers from NS and makes selection.
  8. IFRC then informs all PNSs that have been given the green light for deployment.
  9. IFRC senior officer, global surge capacity confirms deployment in writing.
  10. HR team mobilises for deployment, contacting the team and organising their transport to UKO for briefing.
  11. Logistics team mobilise kit.
  12. ERU briefed at UKO.
  13. If the ERU is deployed to an emergency within a region, the DMC assumes the role of deployment manager. For emergencies outside of the regional footprint, the response officer undertakes this role.

View and download a flowchart detailing the process for deploying an ERU here.


Deployment

Before the decision is made to deploy the ERU, logistics provide the ETF with preliminary information on:

  • availability of ERU roster to deploy and deployment timeline
  • availability of kit to deploy, estimated deployment cost and timeline
  • status of British Red Cross globally pre-positioned stocks, including costs and shipping timeline.

After the decision to deploy is made, the below tasks must be completed per the allocated responsibilities.

If the ETF decides to deploy a British Red Cross ERU, based on the input of logistics but also of other teams such as security, finance and regional teams, the decision must also be made on the deployment location, including any suggestions to have a split deployment (with the ERU team split into different locations). This decision can be reviewed during the deployment, based on operational realities.

The below actions need to be completed:


Tasks relating to personnel deploymentResponsibility
Arrange briefing scheduleHR
Arrange mission float (maximum of $5,000)Response lead
Collate operations briefing packResponse lead
Notification of per diem allowance and advance HR
Pre-deployment checks: insurance, medicalHR
Arrange flights and visa HR
Request necessary kit, including workwear Response lead
Issue kit to delegates Logistics
Hand over mission float and related forms to delegates International finance
Issue visibility items to delegates HR
Notify in-country team (IFRC/ICRC) of itineraryHR
Write-off value of kit deployed from the balance sheet
and charge it to the relevant project code
International finance

Available to download here.

Note: a “briefing pack” is available from PIMS here. Reach out to international HR if you cannot access the documents through PIMS; they can share the briefing and debriefing templates upon request.

The kits are split into modules, designed around the various functions of the ERU. The ERU technical managers can advise which modules to deploy, based on the initial assessment received from the IFRC. For more details on logistics’ responsibility and internal procedure to deploy an ERU, read the ERU kit standard operating procedure and/or request the ERU step-by-step process flowchart.

  1. Response lead submits request for kit to aligned LogCo, stating kit type and tentative deployment date.
  2. Logistics team assistant preps standard kit (comms, IT, PFK) LOGE and warehouse officer prep ERU kit.
  3. Response lead raises RFA and sends to aligned LogCo.
  4. LogCo confirms availability of kit with operational team (ccing ESTA team).
  5. HR schedules briefings and kit issue with logistics team.
  6. HR informs delegate of briefing schedule and kit content.
  7. Logistics issues kit to delegates, waybill is signed.
  8. Kit stock tracker is updated.
  9. Post deployment: kit is returned to logistics team as agreed.

View and download a flowchart detailing the internal procedures for deploying an ERU here.


Monitoring the deployment

The ERU deployment can last between one and four months, with a new team sent out to take over from the previous one every four weeks. The operational lead and the response lead have overall responsibility for managing the deployment. However, the logistics team is involved each time a new team is sent out and are responsible for the below points:


 Logistics ERU
deployment
MSM ERU
deployment
Kit issued to outbound team (IT and/or comms)XX
Kit received from returning team (IT and/or comms)XX
Collecting feedback from returning teams on the ERU kit
(through the kit feedback form)
XX
Attending briefings, as scheduled by HRXOptional
Attending debriefings, as scheduled by HRXOptional
Analysing and monitoring the ERU’s performance X

Available to download here.

For more details on reporting requirements, read the IFRC standard reporting requirements for ERU deployments and refer to the annexed templates within the IFRC ERU standard operating procedures (2012).


ERU delegates’ appraisal

Emergency Response Unit managers are also involved in the appraisal process of all British Red Cross delegates returning from an ERU deployment. The team leader appraises the ERU team members (the FACT delegate appraises the ERU team leader) using the IFRC surge standard appraisal form, which is shared with IFRC surge desk, British Red Cross HR and the roster manager.

Each ERU delegate must complete two separate end-of-mission reports. The first one is operational, and the second is focused on HR aspects of the deployment. This latter report is confidential and only shared with British Red Cross HR. The operational report can be shared within British Red Cross and with IFRC when relevant.


ERU evaluation

When the ERU intervention finishes (this can be after a full four-rotation deployment or fewer rotations, depending on the operational needs), it is good practice to request for an independent evaluation. Ideally a partner organisation should lead on the evaluation and present results to both the British Red Cross and the IFRC, and also to the relevant technical working groups to address suggested improvements.

Terms of reference for the evaluation should be drafted by the technical roster manager (logistics or MSM) with the operational lead and response lead, capturing points fed back by delegates through their end-of-mission reports and situation reports shared during deployment. The evaluation should include a “satisfaction survey”, to understand how others involved in the response (other ERUs, PNS, the IFRC coordination structure, the HNS and, where relevant, beneficiaries of support directly provided by the ERU) benefitted from its deployment. Standard Logistics ERU evaluation terms of reference are being developed by the Logistics ERU technical working group.

It is important to take the cost of evaluation into consideration when developing the budget for the response.


Read the next section on Replenishing the ERU kits here.

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Stock management with the IFRC

Each OLPSCM charges a monthly fee to the British Red Cross for holding and managing pre-positioned stocks. Additionally, stock movements initiated by the British Red Cross are charged through pre-agreed logistics services requests (LSR), which provide an indication of the cost of moving the stock, allow the logistics lead (LOGE or LogCo) to raise a PO against the estimated costs and eventually pay the IFRC’s invoice. It should be noted that real costs can be far from the quoted costs, not least because VAT is not included in Agresso POs. A variance of more than 10 per cent between a PO and an invoice will require additional approvals in Agresso.

Annual storage costs are budgeted in the British Red Cross logistics team budget, and logistics issue an annual PO for those services to each OLPSCM, against which monthly invoices sent to SSC are reconciled. This process is managed through the logistics team and SSC, with support from the international finance team. All costs related to the storage of pre-positioned stocks are charged to the logistics budget.

Note: invoices for storage fees and services agreed through LSRs are sent from Geneva, usually with a delay of a month or two. For more details on this, see the British Red Cross management of stocks section below.

In exchange for the costs charged to the British Red Cross, IFRC provides storage space and manages the storing, rotating, shipping, receiving and quality assurance of British Red Cross stocks. IFRC also sends monthly and year-end stock reports. In addition, British Red Cross logistics visit two OLPSCMs each year and conduct a stock and warehouse audit. Reports are available from the logistics team. The audit consists of a spot check on stocks and a standard warehouse audit, focusing on the storage conditions and systems in place in the OLPSCM.

Note: some of the OLPSCM warehouses (including Kuala Lumpur and Dubai) offer quality assurance services and have facilities to perform quality tests on specific items delivered to their warehouse. This needs to be arranged and comes at a cost – for more details, contact the LOGE in the UKO logistics team.


British Red Cross management of stocks

The British Red Cross manages the pre-positioned stocks with the operational support of the IFRC. Within the logistics team, the LOGE is tasked with managing the stocks that are pre-positioned at the OLPSCMs.

The management of pre-positioned stocks by logistics is described in the RLU standard operating procedure, while the financial management is done in collaboration with logistics’ finance business partner. The financial aspects of managing those stocks are captured in the balance sheet guidance document.

In case of any questions, contact the LOGE in the international logistics team.


Requesting for stocks from the OLPSCMs

There are various ways of accessing the British Red Cross pre-positioned stocks. Agreements and standard operating procedures are in place to cover both issuing mechanisms.


Pledging stocks

When a disaster occurs, the IFRC usually issues a mobilisation table (a ‘mob table’). The mob table is designed to list all in-kind requirements to fulfil the IFRC’s emergency plan of action (EPoA) and emergency appeal (EA) and is issued to Partner National Societies who can choose to pledge items against the listed needs.

In this case, the pledge must be agreed with the emergencies team and with the regional team (usually the disaster management coordinator) during an emergency task force (ETF) meeting. Ultimately, the decision to pledge stocks against a mob table lies with the operational lead (this would be the head of region or the global response manager, depending on the context of the emergency). The LOGE must be informed ahead of the ETF so they can provide the relevant logistics coordinator with sufficient stock information to share in the ETF. This information will include, but may not be limited to:

  • list of items in stock and quantities
  • indicative cost of items and shipping costs to deliver them to the operation
  • indicative delivery lead time to country of response for all items
  • indicative replenishment lead time for all items.

It is an ETF-made decision to pledge any of the available items to the IFRC-led response. When stocks are pledged, they are essentially donated to the IFRC. All costs associated with the stock and its movement will be charged to the budget codes, as advised by the operational lead nominated in the ETF. It is worth noting that pledges can be made against British Red Cross pre-positioned stocks in the OLPSCMs but other items can also be pledged, in which case the UK-based logistics team will source the pledged items through a procurement process. The decision to pledge items beyond those in stock is made based on cost, lead time and the specific needs of the operation (where they are not fulfilled by standard items).

Following the decision to pledge, the LOGE and/or the logistics coordinator manage the release of the pledged stocks from the relevant OLPSCM into the operation, initially through an RFA (see the RFA guidance note). It is important that this is done with the input of the LOGE for the following reasons:

  • The LOGE holds the relationship with the OLPSCM.
  • The LOGE maintains records of pre-positioned stocks together with logistics’ business partner and is best placed to know the cost of stocks and how to allocate them in the stock balance sheet.
  • The LOGE will be tasked with the replenishment of the stock in the OLPSCM. To avoid any loss of information or time, it is preferable that they are the lead on any stock movements in or out of the OLPSCM.

Selling stocks

Any Movement partner can request stocks from the OLPSCMs. External organisations can also access Red Cross stocks through the IFRC, who will contact the most appropriate stock owner to arrange the terms of the donation/sale.

In this case, they would reach out to the OLPSCM teams, who would determine which stock is most appropriate (for information about different stock sources in the OLPSCMs, see the IFRC’s OLPSCM offer and system). They may then contact the best-placed stock owner to ask to buy some of their stocks.

When the request comes to the British Red Cross, it will be sent to the LOGE, who will seek approval from the emergencies team (usually the global response manager, as owner of the pre-positioned stocks). If approval is granted, the LOGE will get back to the OLPSCM with the details of the cost of the items, and the OLPSCM will issue a purchase order for the items.

After confirmation that the stocks have left the OLPSCM is received (a signed waybill), the LOGE commences the replenishment process, using a REP form (see the Replenishing stocks in the OLPSCMs section below).

Note: for more information on the stock balance sheet, see the balance sheet guidance note.

It is also possible for the British Red Cross to access other PNSs’ stocks (through pledges or purchases), or indeed Federation stocks through the mechanism that applies to all other National Societies: a request must be placed to the IFRC via the LOGE, detailing items, quantities and country of delivery. In this case, stocks will be sold to the British Red Cross.


Replenishing stocks in the OLPSCMs

After stock items are released from an OLPSCM warehouse, they need to be replaced by new stock – this is called replenishment. If the agreed stock target for a specific item is lower than what was previously in stock, the items that were released will not be replaced.

Ideally the stock should be replaced like-for-like (in terms of quality and quantity, with specifications matching the standard product catalogue), but there may be a decision to postpone or adjust the replenishment for one or more of the below reasons:

  • Minimum order quantity: some suppliers only accept orders above an agreed quantity.
  • Procurement optimisation: where other stock movements are planned or being arranged, the LOGE will compile all quantities before placing the replenishment order.
  • Specification reviews: specialised items may require a review of specifications before the British Red Cross decides to replenish them into the stocks.

To replenish stocks, the LOGE will raise a REP form and have it signed off by logistics, emergencies and finance. For more details about the REP process, refer to the OLPSCM standard operating procedure (contact the British Red Cross international logistics team).

The process to follow is slightly different when a new item needs to be added to the pre-positioned stocks. This must be done through a request for action (RFA) which must be approved by logistics (the head of logistics or senior logistics manager, depending on the amount), budget holder and finance business partner.

The LOGE will manage the order and arrange freight to the relevant OLPSCM, using the shipping instructions shared by the OLPSCM. The LOGE will communicate order details with the OLPSCM, so they are informed ahead of the delivery.

The LOGE provides updates on ongoing replenishments in the logistics status report on a weekly basis.

For more detailed step-by-step guidance, refer to the OLPSCM standard operating procedures.


Read the next chapter on Emergency Response Units here.

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