Emergency Response Units (ERUs): Frequently asked questions

What is an Emergency Response Unit (ERU)?

An ERU is a standardised package of trained personnel and modules of equipment, ready to be deployed at short notice. The units are fully self-sufficient for one month and can be deployed for up to four months. The ERUs are the Federation’s disaster response tools and the property of the following National Societies: American, Austrian, the BeNeLux, British, Danish, French, Finnish, German, Japanese, Norwegian, Spanish, Swedish and Swiss Red Cross. Other National Societies contribute with ERU trained staff (such as Australia, Canada, Hong Kong,
Iceland and Macedonia).
When are ERUs used?

ERUs are part of the global Federation Disaster Response system and therefore used in large emergency response operations, when global assistance is needed and the Federation’s delegation(s) and the affected National Society cannot respond alone. ERUs provide specific services where local infrastructure is damaged, temporarily out of use or insufficient to cope with the needs. If the need for assistance continues after the ERU’s four month operational period comes to an end, the service provision and equipment is taken over by the Federation’s ongoing operation, the host National Society, the local government or other competent organisation(s).

What type of ERUs exists?

Logistics ERU
Relief ERU
IT & Telecommunication ERU
Water & Sanitation ERU:
Module 15,
Module 40 and
Module Mass Sanitation.
Basic Health Care ERU
Referral hospital facilities (field hospitals) ERU
Base camp

How is an ERU deployed?

Following a disaster and a needs assessment done in the area affected ERUs can be requested, in particular for health and wat/san modules. Logistics, IT&Telecom and Relief are oftentimes deployed immediately since their services are required from day one. However, the host National Society’s approval is necessary before ERU holding National Societies are being alerted. The alert & deployment process is managed by the Federation’s Secretariat in Geneva through the ERU officer together with the relevant technical departments. This is done in accordance with the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for Disaster Management, agreed to by the ERU National Societies. There is a rapid alert system using GSM and email, and those National Societies having ERUs available respond quickly so that a decision on who-goes-where can be made within hours. ERUs are then deployed to the affected country within 48 hrs of a major disaster happening.

Who manages the ERU in the field?

The ERU Team Leader is responsible for the ERU team fulfilling its task. The designated Federation operations manager in the field or the FACT Team Leader, is responsible for ensuring the overall management of the operation, while the ERU Team leader has a technical reporting line to the sectoral Coordinator when in place (for example the Health or Logistics Coordinator).

Note: FACT = Field Assessment & Coordination Team; a team of disaster managers who assist the affected National RC Society in the first weeks of an operation in assessment and in particular coordination with the affected National Society, the UN, int. NGO’s, etc.

Who owns the ERUs and who pays?

The deploying National Society covers all initial costs (equipment, personnel and deployment) while some operational costs in the country affected are paid for by the Federation. The ERU deployment is traditionally financed out of national fund-raising campaigns, through support from the National Society’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs or institutional donors such as ECHO. The ERUs deployed are considered a contribution to the Federation, which is why the value of the ERU appears in the appeal’s contributions list.

How experienced is ERU personnel?

All ERU Team Leaders and the majority of team members have had previous field experience. They are all professionally qualified and often volunteers of their NS while having a regular job. They have all received ERU training and often also followed a Red Cross/Crescent Basic Training Course. Like regular delegates, they sign the Code of Conduct for personnel. More and more Team Leaders have also followed FACT training and gone out on FACT missions, thus acquiring a more all-round Red Cross/Crescent emergency background.

What happens to the equipment after four months of ERU deployment?

The ERU can hand over all or part of the equipment to the Federation delegation or to the host National Society. In the case of health ERUs, the equipment is usually handed over to the Federation’s operation, the National Society or the local health authorities. This should be clearly documented by the departing ERU team Leader in a so-called ‘hand-over document’ and signed by all parties.

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