Emergency Response Units

Ari Räsänen
Image: Ari Räsänen

The basis of the unexceptional emergency preparedness of the Red Cross Red Crescent is the unrivalled permanent presence that the organisation has in communities covering all four corners of the world.

When something happens, the Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers residing in the community take action. Volunteers from neighbouring areas form the next level of upgrading the response. Emergency Response Units are created to respond to needs that are beyond the local, national, and regional Red Cross Red Crescent capacities.

Knowledge, experience and standards are the secret behind the ingeniousness of the ERU system.

150 years of first-hand disaster response experience combined with the excellent cooperation of the Movement have moulded and honed the standards and coordination of the Emergency Response Unit system.

Utilising strong Movement support, the National Society of the affected country assesses and identifies what, when, and where help is needed.

ERUs never disembark into a vacuum. They always arrive to assist and work together with local Red Cross Red Crescent personnel. Because of this, Response Units always speak the local languages and respect the culture and ways of the communities that they serve.

At the end of a mission, the equipment of an Response Unit remains in the target country in turn allowing local actors improved capacity to meet the next disaster challenge.

Dr. Leopold Krohn was the team leader of the first ever Emergency Response Units of the Finnish Red Cross, 5 which was a field hospital that was sent to the Russo-Turkish war of 1877.

 

Thousands benefited

On 1 June 2011, the international personnel reserve roster of the Finnish Red Cross had 1000 names on it. Of those, 400 have received special training. Based on years of experience, approximately one tenth of the trained volunteers are assumed to be available for immediate deployment at any given time.

When the IFRC alerts Emergency Response Units, the volunteers of the reserve receive their alert in an SMS message from the Finnish Red Cross HQ. Within the first couple of hours, those who are able to deploy immediately respond to the request by sending an SMS back to the HQ.

Based on the specific professional, linguistic, and other needs of the Response Unit, which will be deployed, personnel are then chosen among these volunteers. The time frame between the first alert and the boarding of an aircraft to the destination of deployment has been less than 12 hours as the minimum. Usually, volunteers have some days to prepare for a mission.

Over the years, Finnish Red Cross delegates have saved thousands of lives and alleviated the suffering of hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable people around the world.

Deployments of Finnish Red Cross Emergency Response Units (Updated 31.12.2010)

  • 1999 Two basic health clinics to Albania in connection with the summer 1999 Kosovo refugee crisis.
  • 2001 General field hospital to Bhuj, India, together with the Norwegian Red Cross, in connection with the 26 January 2001 earthquake.
  • 2003 General field hospital to Bam, Iran, together with the Norwegian Red Cross, in connection with the 26 December 2003 earthquake.
  • 2004 Basic health clinic to Pottuville, Sri Lanka, in connection with the 26 December 2004 tsunami.  
  • 2005 General field hospital to Muzaffarabad, Kashmir, Pakistan, for ICRC use, together with the Norwegian Red Cross, in connection with the 8 October 2005 earthquake. Basic health clinic to Patikka, Kashmir, Pakistan, for ICRC use, in connection with the 8 October 2005 earthquake.
  • 2006 Three mobile basic health clinics to Kenya, in connection with the autumn 2006 floods.
  • 2007 Two mobile health clinics to Sindh, Pakistan in connection with the summer 2007 floods.
  • 2008 Mobile basic health clinic to Mutare, Zimbabwe, in connection with the 2008-2009 cholera epidemics.
  • 2009 Surgical field hospital to Peshawar, Pakistan, for ICRC use, in connection with an increase in the demand for war surgery in the area.
  • 2010 Mobile health clinic to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in connection with the 12 January 2010 earthquake. Surgical field hospital to Haiti, in connection with the 12 January 2010 earthquake, together with the German Red Cross. Relief unit to Haiti, in connection with the 12 January 2010 earthquake. Emergency shelter services for 2.300 families to Haiti, in connection with the 12 January 2010 earthquake. Surgical field hospital to Pitrufquén, Chile, in connection with the 27 February 2010 earthquake, together with the Norwegian Red Cross, operated by Chilean medical staff. Logistics unit to Pakistan in August, in connection with the monsoon super floods, together with the Danish Red Cross.

Finnish Red Cross Response Units (Updated 1.6.2011)

  • Deployable
  • General field hospital
  • Surgical field hospital
  • Basic health clinic; both fixed location and mobile versions
  • Emergency shelter unit
  • Relief
  • Logistics
  • IT and communication

Response Unit under preparation

  • Water and sanitation
  • Evacuation hospital