An accurate assessment depends on thorough planning, design and preparation. Under normal circumstances, the means of collecting and analysing the necessary data and information should be established as part of an organisation's pre-disaster planning. Preparedness ensures no time is lost revising procedures or questionnaires when the disaster hits.

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 an emergency it is very important to consider preparing an in-depth logistics assessment before the crisis (i.e. Logistics Cpacity Assessment (LCA)).  If this is not possible, ensure a logistics assessment is preformed during the early stages of a crisis, either as stand alone exercise, or as a logistic component within a general assessment format (i.e. Multi-Cluster/Sector Initial Rapid Assessment (MIRA)).

Note that in emergency situations, processes are intentionally shortened to speed up and facilitate immediate response to needs. As organisations respond to the initial critical emergency needs, they should conduct a logistics assessment as early as possible, before initiating and implementing a long term logistics response intervention. Logistics Rapid Assessment Toolkits are available on the Logistics Cluster website.  Inability to accurately assess the impact of a disaster, the resulting needs, and the local response capacities, would result in inadequate assistance, poor utilisation of resources and a poorly structured response. Ideally, planning a logistics emergency response should consist of the following stages: assessing the situation, identifying the objectives, evaluating available resources, identifying intervention alternatives and implementing response plan based on the objectives and alternatives.

Diagram 1: Emergency Response Decision Making Process – Revised

As the diagram above implies, disaster assessment should be an ongoing and repetitive process. It is clear that effective logistics interventions are time-critical and rely greatly on resources already present in the affected area or pre-positioned in easily accessible locations. Though most of these can be pre-planned, a quick on-set emergency can disrupt any logistics plans previously put in place. In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, there would not be sufficient time for extensive or detailed assessments or the organisation of large-scale external support. Supplying accurate, credible, and realistic logistics information to decision-makers helps to reduce the overall complexity of a logistics response.


An emergency logistics assessment is the process of gathering, analysing and disseminating logistics related data and information in relation to the impact of a disaster. It determines the extent of the impact (through a situational assessment) and the logistical needs (through a capacity assessment). Assessments should be continuous in nature and enable organisations to monitor changes as a response or intervention evolves.


Elements of an Assessment


The scope of an emergency assessment will be different depending on the circumstances and may vary from emergency to emergency. 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, the following tools and templates are provided for guidance: 

Assessment methods

Key considerations:

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:

Factors to Consider when Initiating an Assessment

Basic Principles of Assessment

Once the assessments are complete, organisations move into the planning phase and develop a response plan on how to meet the needs of the affected communities. Based on recommendations made after the assessment, the organisations are able to make critical decisions.

Assessment Process

Clarify the nature of the intervention:

Collect data & Information

Analyse and interpret data & Information

Report Conclusions and Provide a Logistics Response Plan

Diagram 2 - adapted from UNDMTP/Disaster Assessment (1994)] - Revised

Essential considerations for post disaster logistics assessments

Planning Process

Planning is largely a decision making process that involves choosing among alternatives. The seven basic steps of planning are:

A planning check-list in an emergency setting could include, setting of objectives, developing policies or adopting existing ones to cover procurement, warehousing, disposal/reverse logistics and also resources required such as vehicles, radios, computers, office space, storage space and staffing, as well as others.

Integrated Planning

Logistics is a service provider. Logistics planning, therefore, is not a stand alone activity. The active engagement of programme managers, partners, suppliers, shippers and logistics staff at all levels is vital for good results.

The involvement of logistics in programme planning inevitably results in the delivery of quality services that contribute to well coordinated, effective and efficient interventions. For instance, a sound and well thought out procurement plan is fundamental to the success or failure of any operation. Being pro-active with integrated planning and effectively advocating for the inclusion of logistics planning at every level can contribute immeasurably to the effectiveness of an emergency intervention.

Planning Cycle

A response can only be successful if program needs are fully understood and addressed. The key to this is an integrated collaborative planning process across functions

Factors to consider in the development of a good logistics plan

Point to note: Always keep the plan under constant review and communicate changes that become necessary to meet the needs of the operation.


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, are regularly updated, and provide a useful tool to establish the logistics infrastructure before the disaster occurred.

Emergency Assessment

Rapid Logistics Assessment templates can be found on the Logistics Cluster website.

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

Sphere Humanitarian Charter: Common Standard 2

WFP Emergency Field Operations Pocketbook pg. 16-66 and 26-29

UNHCR Handbook for Emergencies pg.41

UNICEF Emergency Field Handbook pg. 10-14

Disaster Management Institute of 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.15-19 WHO Assessment of Logistics & Supply Needs

IOM Emergency Operations Manual



Relief Web- OCHA Produced

AlertNet- Humanitarian News

The Logistics Cluster