Emergency Response Unit

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ERU emblem.

An Emergency Response Unit ( ERU for short ) of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is an internationally available disaster relief unit .


At the end of 1994 the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) came up with the idea of ​​establishing internationally standardized and self-sufficient units in order to coordinate international aid in the event of a disaster with the national societies as quickly as possible .

ERU definition

ERU drinking water specialist takes a water sample

ERUs are internationally standardized support units of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in terms of both equipment and training . The equipment of an ERU is stored ready for transport around the clock, so that operational readiness can be established after 48 hours at the latest. The equipment always includes fuel and food for the aid team for at least four weeks. Within a week, ERUs can be deployed around the world to support the national organization in the disaster area . Such a deployment usually lasts four months, but can be extended to up to six months. During this time, national helpers are also trained in order to ensure continuation of the aid service after the end of the mission and to strengthen the self-help capacity of the country.


Overview of fully-fledged ERU units as of 2010

The ERUs are structured according to their task. The following units are available worldwide:

  • Logistics ( handling and storage of aid supplies )
  • IT and Telecom ( development of data networks and communication )
  • Water and Sanitation ( drinking water treatment and hygiene )
  • Basic Health Care ( basic medical care )
  • Referral Hospital ( field hospital )
  • Rapid Deployment Hospital ( quickly available emergency medical care )
  • Relief ( organization of aid distribution )
  • Base Camp ( accommodation for Red Cross / Red Crescent staff )

The units are held by several national organizations worldwide. In the German-speaking area, the ERUs are stationed as follows:

Germany Austria Switzerland
  • Basic health care
  • Referral Hospital
  • Rapid Deployment Hospital
  • Water and Sanitation
  • Water and Sanitation
  • IT & Telecom
  • Logistics

In addition, the National Societies of the following countries maintain ERUs: Belgium , Denmark , Finland , France , Great Britain , Italy , Japan , Canada , Luxembourg , New Zealand , the Netherlands , Norway , Sweden , and the USA . Other national companies (e.g. those of Australia , Croatia , Hong Kong , Iceland ) have staff that are trained for the equipment.

ERU use


ERU drinking water specialists set up a water distribution point.

After a disaster or an event that exceeds the local and national aid capacities, the association of the local Red Cross organization, in consultation with the government of the state, sends a request for aid to the IFRC. It is important that the affected area is not in a war zone, otherwise the International Committee of the Red Cross is responsible.

After this, and in some cases immediately after the disaster, if it can be assumed that a request for assistance will be made, the national organizations assess their operational capability. It is checked which staff is available (these are volunteers , who are, however, employed by your Red Cross Society for the duration of a posting) and how the financing of the assignment can be guaranteed.

At the same time, the IFRC sends Field Assessment Coordination Teams (FACT) to act as scouts and get an overview of the situation. These teams decide what material is needed on site and report to the IFRC. They can be used anywhere in the world within 24 hours for a period of two to four weeks.

In the meantime, the national societies will inform the IFRC whether an operation is possible. The IFRC decides which units from which countries are alerted. After this alert, operational readiness is established within 48 hours and the team and equipment are flown to the crisis area in one or more cargo planes .

An ERU team usually stays in action for around five weeks, with half a week overlapping with the previous and the successor team. Five teams are required for a four-month assignment. During the mission, national helpers are trained so that they can act immediately in the event of a recurring disaster. For this reason and due to the high transport costs that would arise, the equipment is handed over to the national company at the end of the ERU mission.

Use statistics

In the period from 1996 to 2012, a total of 215 ERUs were deployed. Equipment and / or personnel were sometimes made available by several national companies for each mission. During this period, the units of the German Red Cross were deployed 37 times, the Austrian Red Cross 19 times and those of the Swiss Red Cross eight times. Most of the missions took place in 2010 (partly due to the earthquake in Haiti and the floods in Pakistan ).

Individual evidence

  1. Emergency Response Units (ERUs): Types (English) . Website of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Retrieved October 29, 2013.
  2. Statistics for all ERU deployments ( MS Excel ; 158 kB). Website of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Retrieved October 29, 2013.


  • Script for the BKI (Basic International Course) of the Austrian Red Cross (as of Feb. 2011)

Web links

Commons : Emergency Response Unit  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files