Emergency Response Units (ERUs): Types

What is an ERU?

An Emergency Response Unit (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 IFRC’s disaster response tools and the property of the following National Societies: American, Austrian, the BeNeLux (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg), British, Canadian, Danish, French, Finnish, German, Italian, Japanese, New Zealand, Norwegian, Spanish, Swedish and Swiss Red Cross. Other National Societies contribute with ERU trained staff (such as Australia, Croatia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Iceland and Macedonia).

When are ERUs used?

ERUs are part of the global IFRC 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 IFRC’s ongoing operation, the host National Society, the local government or other competent organisation(s).

Types of ERU:

  • Logistics
  • IT & Telecommunication
  • Water & Sanitation:
     - Module 15
     - Module 40
     - Module Mass Sanitation 20
  • Basic Health Care
  • Referral Hospital
  • Rapid Deployment Hospital
  • Relief
  • Base Camp

Logistics ERU

Its function is to effectively manage the arrival of large amounts of relief goods, either flown in by air or trucked and shipped in, the clearance of these goods, their storage and subsequent forwarding to distribution points. Also, the unit is responsible for the reporting on these items (the unit tracks all incoming goods according to a so-called ‘mobilization table’). In addition, the unit supports the clearance of other ERUs, often arriving with heavy equipment. 

Staff: 4-6

The British, Danish, Finnish, Spanish and Swiss Red Cross maintain a Logistics ERU.

IT & Telecommunications ERU

Function: to establish local communication networks and links to help ensuring the smooth flow of information in the operation. Furthermore, to assist the host National Society with its communication systems. The ERU has a range of technology using satellite phone systems, high-frequency and very high frequency radio systems and VSAT, depending on the geographical location and needs.

Staff: 2-3

At present, the American, Austrian, Danish, New Zealand and Spanish Red Cross keep such an ERU.  

Water and Sanitation ERUs 

There are three modules available according to water volume and quality required and to beneficiary numbers and locations. WHO Drinking Water Guidelines and Sphere standards guide the modules’ work.

Staff: on average 4 to 8 water engineers / technicians/ hygiene promoters with each module

WatSan Module 15

Function: to provide treatment and distribution of water up to 225,000 litres a day for a population of 15,000 people, with a storage capacity of a maximum 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 for response to scattered populations. It is flexible in the sense that it can deploy and be set up as several stand-alone units for up to five different locations.

Integrated in this M15 is distribution and trucking 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 nine different storage and distribution points.

Approximate weight: 20 MT, volume: 160m3.

The Austrian, French, German and Spanish Red Cross have this module.

WatSan Module 40

Function: 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 and trucking capacity for the transport of treated water to dispersed populations with a capacity of up to 75,000 litres a day and the possibility to set up nine different storage and distribution points.

Approximate weight: 25 MT, volume: 110m3.

The Austrian, French, German and Swedish Red Cross have this module. Croatian, Indonesian and Macedonia Red Cross offer staff for the M15 & 40. 

Mass Sanitation module 20

Function: to provide basic sanitation facilities (latrines, vector control and solid waste disposal) for up to 20,000 beneficiaries and to initiate hygiene promotion programmes. Hygiene promotion is central as a strategy for promoting effective development and use of facilities and for maximising health benefits. Hygiene promotion activities include assessment, community mobilisation, hygiene information, education and communication targeted at promoting hygiene practices at the community and household levels, in addition to operation and maintenance of hygiene facilities.

Community participation in the immediate aftermath of a disaster ensures sustainable and incremental improvements in environmental health.

Approximate weight: 14 MT, volume: 90m3.

Austrian, British, German, Spanish and Swedish Red Cross have this ERU module.

Referral Hospital ERU

This ERU functions as a 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, anesthesia, internal medicine gynaecology, obstretics 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 and outpatient department and an emergency room to ensure the treatment of casualties as a referral facility. It is designed in a modular way to be adaptable to a given situation in the field and to best integrate into the existing local health system and structures.

The unit needs to be self-sufficient and therefore includes supporting modules such as administration, IT & Telecom, water and power supply, staff accommodation and vehicles. The set-up can be in tents or move partly or entirely into existing buildings and the unit works on the basis of an agreement with the Health Ministry of the country affected, whose national health staff receive in-service training in the ERU and work in an integrated way alongside expatrietes staff.

Staff: 15–20. Approximate weight: 60 MT, volume: 350 m3.

The Finnish, German and Norwegian Red Cross have this ERU, while several other National Societies has staff trained for joint deployments.

Rapid Deployment Hospital

A specifically modified and lighter version of the Referral Hospital ERU is the Rapid Deployment Hospital ERU, which can deploy within 48 hours of alert and offers medical and surgical interventions such as triage, first aid and medevac as well as limited medical/surgical care, including an oupatient department. A 10 beds capacity is also available.

It can function up to 10 days pending assessment and arrival of a more complete hospital or Basic Health Care ERU. Being flexible and mobile, requiring no loading equipment, the team works with limited equipment and resources. It can also be used as mobile clinic if required at later phase of operation. 

Staff: 8-10. Approximate Weight: 10 MT, 90m3

Canadian, German, Finnish and Norwegian Red Cross offer this ERU.

Basic Health Care ERU

Function: to provide immediate basic curative,  preventive and community health care 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 Inter Agency Emergency Health Kit. The unit can deliver basic outpatient clinic services, maternal-child health (including uncomplicated deliveries), community health outreach, immunization and nutritional surveillance.

It does not function as a hospital but has 10-20 overnight bed-capacity for observation only. In the event of therapeutic feeding or functioning as a cholera treatment centre, the water usage rate would be significantly higher. It must have a mechanism for referral of more serious cases for hospitalization, i.e. a hospital within reasonable distance, plus transportation (ambulance) facilities.

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 (Ministry of Health) for the ERU expatriate (doctors / nurses) to provide health care.

Staff: 5–8. Approximate weight: 18 MT, volume: 90m3.

The Canadian, Finnish, French, German, Japanese, Norwegian and Spanish Red Cross offer this ERU. Various others, such as Australian and Hong Kong Red Cross are offering staff to join the existing Basic Health Care ERUs.

Relief ERU

Function: to support the host National Society to undertake relief assessments, targeted beneficiary selection and to assist in the set-up for food and NFI distributions, as well as compile relief distribution statistics. This ERU can also assist in the setting of camps and works closely with the logistics ERU.

Staff: 4-6

The American, the combined BeNeLux, Danish, Finnish, French and Spanish Red Cross all maintain a Relief ERU. 

Base Camp ERU

The Base Camp provides Red Cross Red Crescent staff (both host National Society and International Federation staff) engaged in emergency operations with appropriate living and working conditions. The Base Camp 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 Red Cross Red Crescent staff.

It comes with it own staff and is provided by Danish and Italian Red Cross.

ERU deployments map