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Assessments enable logisticians to understand the impact of a disaster on the environment, how the impact affects the population, and how the logistics services are to be provided. The findings from logistics assessments are critical in enabling appropriate decision making, planning and organisation for effective disaster response.

To effectively support a response to the needs in an emergency, it is very important to include a logistics assessment during the general needs assessment exercise. Make sure there are logistics staff available to help ensure that the team's needs can be adequately provisioned for. 


The scope of an emergency assessment will be different depending on the circumstances and may vary from emergency to emergency or depend on the nature or scale of the disaster. This not-with-standing, there is still plenty of basic information that is essential to the logistics function. That is, the number of affected population, distribution plans and nature of supplies required. For planning purposes, also gather information using the guidance and templates from the followingthe following tools and templates are provided for guidance

Tools and Templates


  • Numbers and figures regarding affected population
  • Distribution plans
  • Where to access:
    • Materials required (commodities and supplies)
    • electric power, hydro facilities, water/sewage infrastructure
    • civil aviation, airports, alternative aircraft, seaports, railroads
    • warehousing
  • Accessibility of:
    • roads and bridges
    • transfer points and land border crossings
  • local trucking capacity
  • communications
  • coordination capacity

Planning an Assessment

“A quick response to obviously urgent needs must never be delayed because a comprehensive assessment has not yet been completed” (UNHCR hand book for emergencies). The assessment outcomes facilitate planning and create a base for informed decision making. Planning an assessment involves:

  • setting the objectives of the assessment;
  • establishing terms of reference for the Logisticians;
  • selecting team members;
  • identifying and/or preparing the assessment tools;
  • mobilising resources to facilitate the assessment - staff, vehicles, cameras;
  • agreeing on reporting format; and
  • identifying users of the assessment information, for budgeting purposes, for the programme staff, donors, and for internal logistics needs to facilitate planning.

Factors to Consider when Initiating an Assessment

  • Analyse existing data. Rapidly collate and analyse already-available information. Anticipate the likely impact of the disaster and determine the areas on which information gathering should focus.
  • Prioritise the areas to be visited. Decide where to go in order to get a valid overview of the situation on the ground as well as details of the likely bottlenecks.

Assessment Process

Identify information needs and sources


  • seek reliable sources from a range of stakeholders; including the logistics clusters, if established, Inter-agency groups, other humanitarian entities, etc;
  • verify information from alternatives sources.

Collect data & Information

  • Identify baseline data if available and build on existing collection system.

Analyse and interpret data & Information

  • Evaluate against a baseline
  • cross-check and compare reports from different sources, if possible;
  • update information continuously as needs change; and
  • report conclusions to relevant sectors who draw on the logistics services.

Provide logistics input to design/modification of disaster responseReport Conclusions and Provide a Logistics Response Plan

  • Align objectives to program needs;
  • identify and allocate resources; and
  • plan and Develop monitoring and evaluation process.


Diagram 1 - adapted from UNDMTP/Disaster Assessment (1994)] - Revised

Factors to Consider when Initiating an Assessment


Essential considerations for post disaster logistics assessments

  • Sensitivity to local culture and customs.
  • Identify local capacities, including the government.
  • Consider the requirements of all sectors activated and the response of other agencies to avoid duplication.
  • Share information to enable rapid response and effective coordination.
  • Take account of the responsibilities, response and legal requirements of national and local authorities.
  • Use standardised assessment procedures.
  • Identify a way of ensuring that there is a continuous re-assessment to facilitate relevant action for the changing context and needs.
  • Coordinate and work with others. Form multi-disciplinary teams with government and other humanitarian organisations whenever possible. Coordinate efforts to get information from as many localities as possible as quickly as possible. Agree common definitions, methods and data collection formats, if possible, so that information from different teams will be comparable.
  • Define terms of reference and specific information needs. Define the purpose and scope of each assessment mission clearly, and specify appropriate report headings.
  • Avoid duplication. To speed up the assessment, avoid reporting on data or information that is already available.
  • Include a status report on some of the critical factors required to enable a successful response:
    • financial resources available and any restrictions or provisions pegged to it.
    • staffing - both in numbers and skills;
    • ability to collaborate with other stakeholders also conducting assessments; and
    • complexities or challenges arising due to the nature of the emergency whether a slow on-set, quick on-set or complex emergency. This determines speed of response required and therefore the type of assessment or response that will be done.
  • Select sources of information carefully to ensure that they are reliable and up-to-date.
  • Consider the accuracy: the likely margin of error in the data and its significance for the conclusions being drawn or the calculations being made. Specify ranges rather than absolute figures if data is only approximate. Be sure to highlight any information/data that may misrepresent a situation.
  • Be cautious about generalising: the situation and needs may vary considerably over short distances within the affected area and different locations.
  • Minimising bias: be sensitive to possible biases in people’s perceptions and reports (including those of the assessment team). Information for emergency assessments must come from different sources to provide a relatively accurate assessment of the situation.


A response can only be successful if program needs are fully understood and addressed. The key to this is an integrated planning collaborative planning process across functions “...if I do not understand your needs I cannot possibly fulfil them...”. And from a program's perspective of logistics “...if I do not understand [the constraints/what is possible] I cannot plan...”

Planning is a collaborative process, end to end from identifying needs and forecasting future needs right through to identifying and planning supply.

Factors to consider in the development of a good logistics plan


The assessment process stems across preparedness activities and the pre-disaster warning phase through the emergency phase and even into rehabilitation and recovery of the community. As the needs of the community change through these phases, the objectives of the ongoing assessment change as well. Assessment is a continuous process throughout sudden onset disasters, slow onset disasters and is evident throughout the disaster cycle. Assessments are generally only effective if there is a system available to record, collate the data and disseminate its implications. A pre-established assessment plan is critical, and a coherent system for continuously feeding assessment data into the planning process is equally essential.


Primary Resources

Logistics Capacity Assessments

Digital Logistics Capacity Assessments (LCAs) exist for many countries and can be found at These LCAs , are regularly updated, and provide a useful tool to establish the logistics infrastructure before the disaster occurred.

Emergency AssessmentEmergency

Rapid Logistics Assessment templates can be found on the Logistics Cluster web site under Mapcenter/Tools/UN Spatial Data Infrastructure (



These templates, when used in conjunction with an LCA can be used to rapidly indicate the post-disaster logistics infrastructure, and establish possible logistics bottlenecks and areas of conflict. 

Additional Information

IFRC Disaster Emergency Needs Assessment, adapted from:

Sphere Humanitarian Charter: Common Standard 2


UNICEF Emergency Field Handbook pg. 10-14

Disaster Management Institute of Disaster Management South Africa (TECHNIKON SA)

UNDMTP (1994) Disaster Assessment

USAID (2005) Field operations Guide v4

ADPC (2000) Post Disaster Damage Assessment and Needs Analysis Concern Logistics Manual (Dec 2004) pg. 81-88

WHO Logistics Guide to Emergency Supply Management Chapter 3, pg.1715-21 19 WHO Assessment of Logistics & Supply Needs

IOM Emergency Operations Manual pg. 5-19



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