Stewart Gray
A cargo jet loading an emergency response unit
Image: Stewart Gray

When boiled to the bones, the fundamental purpose of the Red Cross Red Crescent logistics is to facilitate the transformation of a ten currency unit banknote, donated by a benevolent individual somewhere in the world, into a pair of surgical scissors, a set of kitchen utensils or a sack of seeds on the other side of the world.

Finnish Red Cross emergency response unit equipment and items are packed in a way which completely matches the measures of air freight standards. The most suitable type of freight plane is always used to facilitate the airlift of emergency items.

Iljushin IL76 is the preferred freight plane of the global humanitarian community, Finnish Red Cross included. The alternative is a freighter modified from a passenger plane (illustration shows a loading DC-10).

Red Cross Red Crescent logistics has permanent warehouses in hundreds of locations around the world ready to dispatch items for those in needs. Finnish Red Cross has items warehoused in Finland, too, from where things are being dispatched according to needs.

In addition, Red Cross Red Crescent logistics procures items locally from affected countries and from the neighbouring areas. The rule is to always first deploy resources nearest to the affected area with the most favourable cost effect possible. Because of this, thoroughbred money to cater for local purchases is always the best solution, assuming that local purchases are possible and can cover the needs.

Sometimes, especially in connection with large scale disasters, immediate need for items like tents, blankets or the like is so huge that shipments from Finnish stock become necessary. Highly specialized items, such as those forming a Finnish Red Cross surgical field hospital, are always shipped out from Finland.

Aluminium or cardboard boxes, measured to fit seamlessly onto standard cargo pallets, form the basis for Finnish Red Cross ERU module system. The idea is that, if need be, an entire field hospital can be transported with the help of pack animals over terrain with no accessible roads available.

Red Cross’ logistics ERU is composed of various logistics professionals who are dispatched to the disaster area with the task to create an efficient supply chain for relief material. The unit creates conditions for a rapid and safe delivery of relief supplies to the beneficiaries in the disaster area.

Logistics professionals handle the customs clearance of relief supplies, local handling, storage and transport of emergency material for further delivery to distribution points.

At the first phase of the operation, logisticians are also occupied with arranging entry in to the country of operation of possible other units and disaster response professionals, taking care of procurement of vehicles etc.

The unit deploys directly into the disaster zone, alternatively to a nearby location with a transportation hub, such as harbour or airport, available and operational. Logistics forms the backbone of any and all emergency response operations. Effective logistics operations form the backbone without which the assistance does not reach the beneficiaries.

Staffing of logistics unit

  • 1 Team Leader
  • 1 Systems delegate
  • 1 Flight operations / logistics delegate
  • 1 Warehouse / transportation delegate

In addition, a logistics unit hires local staff, the amount of which depends on circumstances and existing local on-site professional resources.

If a logistics unit leaves Finland equipped with a forklift, a vehicle and a warehouse tent it weighs app. 8000 kilos and requires the transport capacity of 0,5 semi-trailer trucks. If no vehicles are sent from Finland, the unit can deploy even by using regular scheduled flights.

Deployments of logistics unit (by 1.4.2010):

  • Finnish Red Cross logisticians were deployed to Haiti and Chile in connection with the 2010 earthquakes, but the unit as such was not.