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  • Total anticipated volume of cargo for the specific storage location.
  • Numbers and types of independent types of goods (SKUs) needing to be accounted for.
  • Interior space adequate for the anticipated flow of work.
  • Need for handling equipment (MHE) for cargo items – MHE parking spaces, recharging, etc.
  • Duration stored goods will stay for / the duration the storage site may be required for.
  • Need for ancillary activities – repacking, labelling, kitting, break bulk, etc.
  • Speed at which throughput/ancillary activities may be required – multiple loading bays, large dispatch area, etc.
  • Need for special storage - cold chain, dangerous goods, etc.
  • Additional planned buffer stock required.

The individual volume needs of different organisations can vary. A generic list of volumes per common relief item can be found in the below table:

ItemEstimated Weight (Kilogram)Estimated Volume (Cubic Meters)
Blankets (Bale of 20)25-300.1415 - 0.2
Body Soap (Carton of 50)100.01502
Buckets (Nested Stack of 50)500.4
Cement (50 kg bag)500.04
Empty Jerry Can (10 Litre)0.0250.01 - 0.0402
Keep Cool Box2-50.025 - 0.075
Latrine Slab120.34
Laundry Soap (Carton of 50)100.018
Mosquito Net (Bale of 50)22-280.002 1 - 0.0042
Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) (Carton of 500 1,000 Sachet)200.00405
Ready to Use Therapeutic Feeding (RUFTFRUTF) (Carton of 150 Sachet)150.02502
Sack of Grain (50 kg sack)500.18
Sleeping Mat (Bundle of 25)200.15
Tarpaulin (4 x 6 meter sheet) (Bale of 5)230.015025
Tin of Vegetable Oil (1 Litre)10.04001
Zinc Sheeting (PieceBundle of 20)350.025
Dry Sand (loose large grained - dense fine grained)1,450 - 1,8501
Dry Gravel1,500 - 1,7001

Actual items obtained from local or international sources may vary in volumes. Understanding the specific storage needs might involve obtaining the volumetric measurements and all special handling needs of all related relief items from either a supplier or a central distribution warehouse.

Irregular and Special Storage

As agencies attempt to plan out space need in storage locations, they may encounter bulky or irregular items. In addition to planning generic outside dimensions, space planners should also estimate the fully required volume to adequately store an item, not just the outside dimensions.

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Irregular Shapes - Some irregular items, such as mechanical or farm equipment may have complex physical attributes that make space planning hard. When looking at highly irregular shapes, planners should consider the outside measurement of only the longest, widest and tallest parts of the item, as those are the parts that will come in contact with other stored items in a warehouse. To do this, planers should imagine an invisible box that is barely large enough to fit the irregular item, and use the “edges” of the “box” to calculate the total required space. In this way, the overall space requirement may actually be larger than they first appear.

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Nested Cargo – Some cargo items can be neatly “nested,” meaning that they can rest inside of or occupy space inside of each other. Buckets – a common humanitarian item – can fit inside one another, taking up considerably less space when stored appropriately. When planning space, organisations should account for nested storage by measuring the outer dimensions of the items while stacked/nested, and not the outer dimensions of the individual unit. In this way, overall space requirement may actually be less than they first appear.

Physical Storage Space Aspects


Storage structures should have adequate inside lighting:

  • If ambient lighting isn’t sufficient for daytime usage, agencies should consider installing additional lights for daytime use.
  • Light should be sufficient for operating at night time. Larger facilities may need extensive lighting installations.


After fumigation, continual inspection may be required. If infestations persist, there may be a need to alter storage or delivery methods. The use of additional liquid based pesticides may be required to spray around the exterior or floor of storage spaces. 

Physical Warehouse Maintenance Schedule 

Below is a suggested periodic maintenance schedule for warehouse management. 

  • Floors
  • Pest signs
  • Locks
  • Walls
  • Sides of racks, shelves, fridges
  • In-depth check for pest
  • Stability of racks, shelves
  • Exterior lighting systems
  • Perimeter walls/fences 
  • Floor
  • Stored Items
  • Roof
  • Gutter
  • Truck parking areas
  • Facility grounds
  • Wall cracks
  • Water leakages
  • Fire Extinguishers/Sand Buckets
  • Condition of handling equipment 
    • Walls
    • Sides of racks, shelves, fridges
    • In-depth check for pest
    • Stability of racks, shelves
    • Exterior lighting systems
    • Perimeter walls/fences 
    • Floor
    • Stored Items
    • Roof
    • Gutter
    • Truck parking areas
    • Facility grounds
    • Wall cracks
    • Water leakages
    • Fire Extinguishers/Sand Buckets
    • Condition of handling equipment 

    Warehouse Equipment Maintenance Schedule 

    All equipment in warehouse facilities - including racking and shelving - will require periodic maintenance. This may include replacing parts, applying lubricants, checking batteries, conducting daily charging or cleaning, or just conducting ongoing inspection to ensure that service equipment and physical holding structures are not displaying signs of damage and distress. Generally, the service schedule for different equipment items will be provided by the manufacturer, however the overall need to conduct daily or weekly inspections may also depend on the size of the warehouse and the overall daily handling requirements. The larger the facility, the more pieces of equipment will likely require maintenance. Additionally, warehouses with high degrees of throughput may also require more regular maintenance. Warehouse managers should develop a maintenance schedule for warehouse equipment breaking down daily, weekly and monthly/yearly service needs, and should also maintain separate logbooks for key pieces of equipment, such as forklifts. Proper tracking of maintenance will increase the lifespan of expensive items, and will increase overall safety of the warehouse environment. 

    Goods Flow

    Warehousing Documentation


    Much like planning cargo reception, there are steps that warehouses and organisations can take to plan for cargo dispatch as well.:

    • Cargo dispatch should be planned in advance and communicated to the warehouse.
      • A formal release order should be authorised, and relevant warehouse staff be issued a formal pick order
      • Warehouses should be given time to pull down cargo, compile shipments, and stage for pick up.
    • If at any time a dispatch is not possible (damaged, expired items, or item cannot be found) the requesting party should be notified, and the release order modified. 
    • Vehicles arriving for pick up should be known and scheduled in advance. Vehicles arriving for unplanned cargo pick-ups, or arriving announced for planned cargo pick-ups may be delayed or rejected based on the policy of the managing organisation.


    • A physical piece count on the consolidated cargo is conducted to confirm correct number.
    • A waybill or a goods released note is generated (if required by the terms of the movement), containing information on the released cargo, dates, and names of person releasing and driver picking cargo up.
    • Stock cards and inventory Ledger ledger updated with the new piece counts.


    Below are general guidelines for the most commonly stored types of items in a humanitarian context. 

    Medical Items

    • Boxes should not receive direct sunlight.
    • Temperature in the warehouse should be controlled and recorded daily, and fridge temperature should be controlled and recorded where cold chain items are stored.
    • Drugs should ideally be stored by type of drug: infusions, injectables, oral drugs, diagnostic tests, etc.
    • Always store medical supplies separately from chemicals or food (pesticides, fertilisers, cement, fuel included), and dangerous goods. This also applies when loading onto vehicles.
    • If stored on pallets, all cartons should be clearly labelled with their contents.
    • Always record batch numbers (found on the outer cartons and on each container of the drugs, allocated by the manufacturer) and expiry dates of medical supplies upon receipt and record batch references at all stock movements, including on all stock/bin cards and all warehouse ledgers.
    • It is good practice to track medical supplies on stock cards raised by batch number. Alternatively, you can record the batch number of the drugs as they moved in and out of stock.
    • Expired drugs are not fit for human consumption and should be destroyed safely. Contact your local Food and Drug Administration to enquire about the regulations around the destruction of medical supplies.
    • Expired or damaged drugs must be quarantined until they can be safely destroyed. Keep a record of drugs placed in quarantine on the relevant bin and stock cards.
    • It is advisable that all medical items be rotated following the FEFO (first expired, first out) principle.

    Food Items

    • Food needs to be protected from sun, rain, humidity and extreme temperatures.
    • Covered and protected storage space is always preferable.
    • If uncovered and unprotected storage cannot be avoided, make sure outside storage is only temporary (maximum 10 to 15 days).
    • Always store food separately from chemicals (including pesticides, fertilisers, cement, and fuel), dangerous goods and drugs. This also applies to when transporting items as well.
    • If you are treating a warehouse that contains food against pests, make sure the chemical used is food-safe (consult your regional logistics support if you are unsure).
    • Ensure the storage areas are cleaned daily, and that all cleanings are recorded (daily sweep, weekly clean and wipe-down, monthly deep clean).
    • Pay particular attention to infestation signs
    • Immediately separate and quarantine infested stocks from the rest. All infestations must be reported immediately to country managers.
    • Expired food items must be quarantined and stored separately until they can be destroyed.
    • Expired food must be disposed of immediately. Check with local health authorities to determine whether it can be used as animal feed or for the appropriate disposal method (incineration or burial). Be mindful that the destruction of food may sometimes cause strong cultural reactions.
    • Pay particular attention to the reception process to confirm weight received: weigh five to ten per cent of the consignment and extrapolate weight of the full consignment to estimate total weight of the consignment against documented weight or use a truck weighbridge to compare the actual weight to the documented weight on the GRN/delivery note/waybill. Record any discrepancy on the GRN.
    • Always record batch numbers and expiry dates of food items upon receipt and stock movement, including on all stock/bin cards and all warehouse ledgers.
    • It is advisable that all food items be rotated following the FEFO (first expired, first out) principle.

    Construction Materials

    • Small parts such as screws, nails, turns and bolts are usually measured and accounted by weight rather than units.
    • For poles, sticks, metal bars and other long and/or bulky items, build “reference” storage areas, with items separated by quantity. For example, store wooden poles in bins with 100 pieces in each. This will help managing stocks per FIFO principles and avoid the deterioration of stock.
    • For sand, gravel and other loose materials, build tank storage per cubic metre to help track stock levels. A good option is to build one cubic metre “bins” and cover them to preserve the quality of the material.
    • The maximum height of a stack of cement should not exceed 15 bags, to prevent lumping from pressure.
    • Cement must always be kept dry and away from the walls of the warehouse. Ideally cover cement stacks with tarpaulin to protect the bags.

    Chemical Products

    • Chemicals can never be stored with food or drugs supplies.
    • Many chemical products are defined as dangerous goods – dangerous goods should be identified and labelled/handled appropriately.
    • When conducting routine warehouse checks, check the packaging of chemicals thoroughly for wet cartons, chewed plastic, broken seals and spilt liquids.
    • Most chemicals are perishable. Maintain an alert system to warn of pre-expired chemicals.
    • The disposal of chemicals is extremely sensitive. Always refer to local laws and regulations. 
    • Fuel and chlorine are the most commonly stored chemicals in humanitarian contexts – make sure they are managed accordingly.

    Adapted from the British Red Cross Warehousing Guidelines.


    TEMPLATE - Temporary Allocation

    TEMPLATE - Equipment Maintenance Log

    TEMPLATE - Warehouse Equipment Maintenance Schedule

    Guide - Pallet Specifications