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.

Download the full section here.

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ERU human resources

When a NS chooses to hold an ERU of any type, they commit to having specialist personnel available to deploy within 24 to 48 hours at any time. This commitment implies that they will recruit, train and roster a pool of specialists large enough to support four rotations of the ERU they hold.


Recruiting an ERU

Recruiting ERU personnel is different from hiring staff, as ERU delegates will not be employed by the recruiting NS unless they are already a staff member. Instead, they will be trained and asked to volunteer for periods of time where they can be on standby for deployment within 24 to 48 hours after the ERU is called for by the surge desk at the IFRC.

ERU delegates only join the staff of a NS when they deploy, and they are usually not paid salaries until then, although they can be paid retainers for the time they are on call. When deployed, the deploying NS seconds the ERU delegates to the IFRC.

Recruiting for an ERU is also challenging because a successful recruitment relies on finding a rare mix of skills and experience:

  • adequate technical skills including being adaptable to an emergency context
  • relevant international experience
  • adequate soft skills or core competencies, including working effectively as a team, but also independently enough to deal with split deployments (for example, where the team may be spread across several locations)
  • availability to complete a long training pathway (usually several weeks long, spread over an entire year)
  • ability to remain on call for several months per year, and to deploy at short notice for one month at a time.

Recruiting for an ERU is usually done jointly between a technical ERU manager and HR colleagues. In British Red Cross, this is a member of the logistics team (usually the logistics manager), a member from the emergencies, surge and technical advisory (ESTA) team, a member from the learning and development team and the international rosters and registers coordinator in HR. It requires careful planning and constant communication with internal stakeholders.

Typically, the recruitment of ERU roster delegates takes several months and is split as below:

An arrow shows the progression of the recruitment pathway for the ERU: advertising, long-listing, short-listing, technical interview and assessment day

The recruitment for ERU members is separated into two different stages: recruitment and training. It is important to note that candidates are only considered ERU members after they successfully “pass” the training pathway, which consists of both classroom training and simulation exercises.

Once recruited, ERU members are made “deployment-ready” by:

  • having their personal details pre-recorded in the HR department’s systems: contact details, bank details, health records and criminal records (where applicable)
  • regular check-ins with HR, especially during the months when they are on standby
  • maintaining updated records of their professional experience.

The National Society sponsoring an ERU covers salaries, benefits, insurance and travel costs of personnel during training and operations. It is also responsible for putting the team together, as well as making sure it has the necessary skills and experience. Each member must adhere to the International Federation’s code of conduct.

The British Red Cross maintains two Logistics ERUs and one MSM ERU, which means that the minimum size of the ERU pools should be 16 to 24 logisticians and 16 to 24 MSM delegates.


Training ERU personnel

Once the recruitment phase is completed, the training pathway begins. In the British Red Cross, training is a two or three-phase process.

  1. Impact – Introduction to Red Cross Movement and humanitarian coordination mechanisms
  2. Foundation – Introduction to emergency operations and the IFRC Disaster Response mechanisms
  3. Technical/Specialist – Simulation exercise: run in teams in field-like conditions

Impact and Foundation can either be delivered together or separately. In between each of these formal, face-to-face training phases, independent, at-home training modules must also be completed.

For more detailed information, see the latest version of the British Red Cross ERU candidate guide, which is attached to the advertisement for ERU membership and sent to all applicants to help them understand the recruitment process.

The requirement is currently for all candidates to follow the training pathway in person, but this may change in the future with the use of remote/online training.


Maintaining an active roster

Once candidates enter the ERU, they are added to a roster.

Each ERU technical manager engages differently with their respective rosters through the international rosters and registers coordinator in the HR team. Regular touchpoints are:

  • Request for availability. The MSM ERU manager goes to the pool of members once a year, while the Logistics ERU manager asks for availability on the 15th of each month for M+2 (for example, on 15 January, roster members are asked to come forward to be on standby on 1 March).
  • Updating the roster members’ details: CV, medical and criminal records (as applicable), to ensure they are deployment-ready during the months they have offered to be on standby.
  • Sharing training opportunities, from within the British Red Cross, from the IFRC or the wider humanitarian community, that can be useful to develop roster members’ competencies. These are sent by the international rosters and registers coordinator, upon request of the ERU manager.
  • Refresher conferences and masterclasses. At least once a year, the MSM and logistics communities get together (separately) for either a refresher course, a conference or a masterclass. These events are organised by the ERU managers and their learning and development business partner.
  • Inviting roster members to facilitate trainings or share their deployment experience. Roster members can be invited to participate in parts of the ERU pathway, particularly to share their deployment experiences or support simulation exercises.
  • Quarterly calls with roster members, with follow-up newsletter sent to all members.

At any of the above touchpoints, it is important to reconsider the roster members’ competencies, and to capture any changes on the roster. Members’ competencies should be registered on a mapping matrix, maintained by the ERU manager and the international rosters and registers coordinator. The current matrix can be requested from the Logs team.

Note: members can request to be put on hold, or they can be put on hold by decision of the ERU technical managers, based on lack of competencies or commitment. In order to become active again, they must usually complete all or part of the ERU training pathway or attend a refresher conference.


ERU equipment

When a NS offers to sponsor an ERU, they commit to having a team of experts on standby for rapid deployment, as well as a standard, specialised kit ready to support the team in fulfilling their mission. For more details about the content of the ERU kits, see the Logistics ERUs and the MSM20 ERU sections.

The sponsoring NS agrees to procure, store and maintain the kit, and to participate in the development of the standard kit composition as relevant, through feeding back on the appropriateness of kit following deployments.

At the British Red Cross, the content of both ERU kits are procured mostly through framework agreements, by the LOGE and with the approval of the global response manager. After a kit has been deployed, its replenishment must be approved by the global response manager, as well as any changes to the kit proposed following kit feedback (see the Replenishing the ERU kits section).

The items received are kitted into modules (the MSM kit has 38 modules in total, split into eight families, while the logistics ERU has 14 modules, split into seven families) and stored at the international warehouse in Bulwick.

Some of the kits’ contents, such as vehicles and cold-weather-specific equipment, is common to both ERUs – these are called the “shared modules” and can be deployed with either ERU kit.

The warehouse officer is responsible for ensuring the safety and maintenance of the entire ERU equipment. This includes vehicles, generators, all electric appliances and safety equipment such as fire extinguishers.

The value of the ERU kits is managed as an investment, where British Red Cross funds the purchases until the kit is charged to an emergency operation. Until then, the value of the kit sits on a balance sheet that captures additions, write-offs and disposals to the kit while it is in stock. For more details on this procedure, refer to the ERU kit standard operating procedure and the balance sheet guidance note held by the logistics team.


Financial commitments

All the costs associated with maintaining an ERU’s preparedness outside of a response operation are covered by the sponsoring NS. This includes storage costs and maintenance costs for the kit, but also retainers for on-call delegates and training costs. The storage and maintenance costs are budgeted for by the logistics team, and funds become part of the logistics framework, while retainer costs fall under the HR budget and training costs under the learning and development budget.

When the decision is made to deploy one of the British Red Cross ERUs, the cost of deployment is covered by the British Red Cross, as a pledge to the IFRC-led operation. The decision to apply later for back-funding from the IFRC appeal is made depending on funds available from the British Red Cross.

During the deployment, operational costs can be charged to the IFRC, while running costs must be covered by the British Red Cross.

  • Operational costs: costs related to any activity listed on the IFRC appeal. For example, where the appeal includes construction of latrines, all costs associated with their construction (materials, manpower, etc) will be covered by the funds raised against the IFRC appeal.
  • Running costs: costs related to having the MSM ERU deployed into the operation. For example, the cost of food and accommodation for the ERU delegates.

A table listing the most common types of expenditure of an ERU deployment and the nature of costs involved here.

In summary, the breakdown of costs is usually as below:


PhaseAssociated costsCosts covered byComments
PreparednessProcurement
Storage
Maintenance
Insurance
BRC logistics
Delegate costs (retainers,
health checks, etc)
BRC HR
TrainingBRC L&D
Decision to deployShipping costs
Travel costs
Salaries
Per diem
Dedicated BRC project
code
Can be recharged to IFRC appeal
(ad hoc and with prior approval
from IFRC)
DeploymentOperational costsIFRC appealSee details in cost type table
Running costs
(including per diem)
Dedicated BRC project
code
ReturnShipping back to UK or
other storage location
Inspection costs
Dedicated BRC project
code
ERU equipment is not supposed to
be shipped back to the UK
EvaluationPost-deployment
evaluation
Dedicated BRC project
code
Evaluation can be commissioned
or done with internal resources

Available to download here.


Read the next section on Deploying an ERU here.



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