How To Use the Tool

Who should use the HHEAT?

The HHEAT was designed to help guide ethical deliberation by a range of people, including:

  • Field workers
  • Participants in pre-departure training
  • Students
  • Policy makers
  • Organizational leaders

When should the HHEAT be used?

The HHEAT is useful for group decision making, especially when there is the potential for conflict between team members, or when people are emotionally invested in an issue and feelings are running high. The HHEAT can also be used in debriefing sessions; review of cases can be helpful when moral issues reoccur or when the outcome of a process or decision was unsatisfactory. Going through this process in a structured and comprehensive manner may help address feelings of guilt or uncertainty arising from difficult ethical decisions. The HHEAT may also prove useful in times of crisis, or when decisions have potentially grave consequences and the discussion might benefit from a more systematic, comprehensive and structured approach.

The best time for ethical thinking might not be in the heat of the moment, but in an atmosphere of relative calm. Moreover, in acute and emergent scenarios, there may simply not be enough time to use the HHEAT. Thinking about the ethical issues you are likely to encounter in advance, such as during pre-departure training, or before beginning a particular project, means that you are not starting at zero when you find yourself confronted with an ethical issue in the field.

How should the HHEAT be used?

To use the HHEAT effectively you may want to spend more time on certain steps, skip over subsections or questions which are not relevant to a particular case (though the six major sections should be completed), revisit questions as new information becomes available and approach the overall analysis in a manner which is flexible and adaptable. The HHEAT is not intended to be used like a recipe or a checklist. Increased familiarity with humanitarian ethics, and other ethics resources (described on page 19 of the Handbook), will enhance the usefulness of the HHEAT.


  • Spend time on the most relevant steps. Revisit questions as information becomes available or the situation changes.
  • Document decisions and rationales.
  • Use the tool In combination with other approaches to address ethical issues.
  • Do not use the tool as a recipe or a checklist.

More detail can be found on pages 11-12 of the HHEAT Handbook.

Return to HHEAT Handbook at a Glance.

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