One of the things I love about my job is that I constantly find out about incredibly useful or smart things that people have come up with. Right now I’m in awe of the the new Emergency Items Catalogue (www.ifrc.org/emergency-items) that was just released by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Metric? Imperial? Who cares?
Imagine you show up at a disaster and you’ve brought a few pumps and hoses. What are the odds of you being able to connect you stuff to that of everyone else? If you used the specifications from the Emergency Items Catalogue to purchase your equipment, then the odds are quite high. Because of the size of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement it can set standards.
2,000 items you need in an emergency
Essentially a group of dedicated people with a very high threshold for boredom got together and specified the details of 2,000 items that are commonly used in an emergency. From adhesive tape to scalpels to generators to … hoses. It’s a job I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but for which I have the uttermost respect.
Standardization is you friend
Even if you don’t need to connect your stuff with that of anyone else, standardization is your friend. For one thing you can be sure what the industry standard is. But more importantly you can tell a manufacturer what you want in a way that makes sense to the manufacturer. If for example, instead of saying “I need 500 blankets” you can say “I need 500 blankets that follow these exact technical specifications” you are far more likely to get what you expect.
Google Books and DocStoc
The Emergency Items Catalogue has been available online for years. But in my opinion not enough people know about it or are using it outside the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement. To change that, the logistics department has given it’s go-ahead to add the PDF-version to Google Books and Docstoc once they have been finalized (in about two weeks). It’ll be interesting to see what people do with these documents once they are out there.