Our history

30th Anniversary film
Watch a short film produced for our 30th anniversary.

The 1980s

RedR UK was founded in 1980 following Peter Guthrie’s experiences working in a refugee camp during the Vietnamese Boat People crisis. Peter, an engineer, realised no real system was in place to deploy engineers to disasters. This led to his idea for a Register of Engineers for Disaster Relief (RedR).

On the advice of Jim Howard, Oxfam’s then chief engineer and a giant of the humanitarian world, Oxfam provided RedR with a start up fund and was formally registered as a charity.

Our first major challenge came with the onset of the Ethiopian famine. Many of our members joined relief efforts both in Ethiopia and Sudan to help the nearly eight million famine victims.

In 1988, HRH The Princess Royal became President of RedR.

The 1990s

RedR UK became much more than just a register of engineers. Our UK training programme started in 1991, while RedR Australia and RedR New Zealand were born the following year.

Our members responded to both the Bosnian and Rwandan crises, while in 1998 we set up a free online Technical Support Service (TSS). This gives aid workers in the field - regardless of their connection to RedR - practical, problem solving advice. 

Just before the dawn of the millennium, RedR’s first international training; a Security Management Workshop, took place in Tirana, Albania.

The 2000s

In 2003 RedR merged with the International Health Exchange (IHE) – an organisation setup to improve the preparation and recruitment of health professionals for international emergency situations. The same year RedR India was founded and we set up a programme office in East Africa.

In the wake of the devastation caused by the tsunami, we launched our first Learning Support and Capacity Building Programme in Sri Lanka in 2005. We also trained over 2000 local aid workers following a devastating earthquake in Pakistan.

That same year RedR South Africa and RedR Malaysia were established, while we set up a programme in Sudan following the civil war. For the next six years we trained more than 4,000 local and international aid workers in the country.

In 2006 we became involved in the UN Cluster Approach, taking up a vital role in training professionals in humanitarian coordination.

After the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010, which killed over 220,000 people, we established a programme in the country. We trained more than 1000 relief workers, of which over 900 were locals.

In the same year we set up a programme in Pakistan to assist the huge humanitarian presence in the country, while RedR Lanka was established in its own right.

In 2011, we set up a programme in the newly formed country of South Sudan to assist the ongoing dire humanitarian situation following two protracted civil war. We also set up a training hub in Nairobi, Kenya, thanks to funding from the Lord Mayor's Appeal. The following year, we extended our training in Kenya into the Horn of Africa and East Africa.

In 2013, we supported the response to Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the Philippines, helping communities Build Back Better to protect themselves against future disasters.

In 2014, we were contracted by DFID to train NHS medical staff deployed to help fight Ebola in Sierra Leone. Between December 2014 and May 2015, we trained 362 medical personnel not only from the UK, but from Denmark, Norway and South Korea. We continue to be involved in the Ebola response by training UK-Med standby teams ready to deploy should the epidemic flare up again.

2015 saw us respond to the twin earthquakes which hit Nepal in April and May, affecting a third of the country's population.


"When I returned from the refugee crisis in Malaysia I saw the pressing need for engineers who could be called upon at short notice to work with frontline relief agencies." Peter Guthrie, RedR Founder