Disaster response

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Relief Camp at Bhuj after 2001 Gujarat Earthquake Hinduja Hospital's Relief Camp at Bhuj after 2001 Gujarat Earthquake.jpg
Relief Camp at Bhuj after 2001 Gujarat Earthquake
A mobile emergency operations center North Carolina National Guard (48677621826).jpg
A mobile emergency operations center

Disaster response is the second phase of the disaster management cycle. It consists of a number of elements, for example; warning/evacuation, search and rescue, providing immediate assistance, assessing damage, continuing assistance and the immediate restoration or construction of infrastructure (i.e. provisional storm drains or diversion dams).The aim of emergency response is to provide immediate assistance to maintain life, improve health and support the morale of the affected population. Such assistance may range from providing specific but limited aid, such as assisting refugees with transport, temporary shelter, and food, to establishing semi-permanent settlement in camps and other locations. It also may involve initial repairs to damaged or diversion to infrastructure.


The focus in the response phase is on putting people safe, prevent need disasters and meeting the basic needs of the people until more permanent and sustainable solutions can be found. The main responsibility to address these needs and respond to a disaster lies with the government or governments in whose territory the disaster has occurred. In addition, Humanitarian organizations are often strongly present in this phase of the disaster management cycle, particularly in countries where the government lacks the resources to respond adequately to the needs.


A "disaster", noun, is defined as a calamitous event, especially one occurring suddenly and causing great loss of life, damage or hardship such as a flood, aircraft crash or an angry person. "Response" is defined (in this context) as: Noun: An answer or reply, as in words or in some action.

The Business Dictionary provide a more comprehensive definition for "disaster response"; [1] Aggregate of decisions and measures to (1) contain or mitigate the effects of a disastrous event to prevent any further loss of life and/or property, (2) restore order in its immediate aftermath, and (3) re-establish normality through reconstruction and re-rehabilitation shortly thereafter. The first and immediate response is called emergency response.

The Johns Hopkins and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) [2] state: "The word disaster implies a sudden overwhelming and unforeseen event. At the household level, a disaster could result in a major illness, death, a substantial economic or social misfortune. At the community level, it could be a flood, a fire, a collapse of buildings in an earthquake, the destruction of livelihoods, an epidemic or displacement through conflict. When occurring at district or provincial level, a large number of people can be affected." [3]

A recent case study of a disaster response undertaken by the IFRC can be viewed here. [4]

The level of disaster response depends on a number of factors and particular situation awareness. Studies undertaken by Son, Aziz and Peña-Mora (2007) shows that "initial work demand gradually spreads and increases based on a wide range of variables including scale of disaster, vulnerability of affected area which in turn is affected by population density, site-specific conditions (e.g. exposure to hazardous conditions) and effects of cascading disasters resulting from inter-dependence between elements of critical infrastructure".

In the British Government's Emergency Response and Recovery guidance, disaster response refers to decisions and actions taken in accordance with the strategic, tactical and operational objectives defined by emergency responders. At a high level these will be to protect life, contain and mitigate the impacts of the emergency and create the conditions for a return to normality. Response encompasses the decisions and actions taken to deal with the immediate effects of an emergency. In many scenarios it is likely to be relatively short and to last for a matter of hours or days—rapid implementation of arrangements for collaboration, co-ordination and communication are, therefore, vital. Response encompasses the effort to deal not only with the direct effects of the emergency itself (e.g. fighting fires, rescuing individuals) but also the indirect effects (e.g. disruption, media interest). [5]

Common objectives for responders are:

Disaster response planning

The United States National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1600 Standard (NFPA, 2010) specify elements of an emergency response, as: defined responsibilities; specific actions to be taken (which must include protective actions for life safety); and communication directives. Within the standard, NFPA recognize that disasters and day-to-day emergencies are characteristically different. Nevertheless, the prescribed response elements are the same.

In support of the NFPA standard, Statoil's (2013) practical application of emergency response is across three distinct "lines" that incorporate NFPA's elements. Line 1 is responsible for the operational management of an incident; line 2, typically housed off-site, is responsible for tactical guidance and additional resource management. Finally, in the case of major incidents, line 3 provides strategic guidance, group resource management, and government and media relations.

While it is impossible to plan for every disaster, crisis or emergency, the Statoil investigation into the terrorist attacks on In Amenas place emphasis on the importance of having a disaster response. The report concludes that a disaster response framework may be utilized in an array of disaster situations, such as that at In Amenas.


The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA); is responsible for bringing together humanitarian actors to ensure a coherent response to emergencies that require an international response. OCHA plays a key role in operational coordination in crisis situations. This includes assessing situations and needs; agreeing common priorities; developing common strategies to address issues such as negotiating access, mobilizing funding and other resources; clarifying consistent public messaging; and monitoring progress.

The organisation in the United Kingdom for the provision of communications disaster response is RAYNET. The UK organisation for the provision of disaster response by off-road vehicles is 4x4 Response.

In Canada, GlobalMedic was established in 1998 as a non-sectarian humanitarian-aid NGO to provide disaster relief services to large scale catastrophes around the world. [6] [7] Time magazine recognized the work of GlobalMedic in its 2010 Time 100 issue. [8] It has a roster of over 1,000 volunteers from across Canada that includes professional rescuers, police officers, firefighters and paramedics who donate their time to respond to international disasters. Their personnel are divided into Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) that operate rescue units, Water Purification Units (WPUs) designed to provide safe drinking water; and Emergency Medical Units (EMUs) that use inflatable field hospitals to provide emergency medical treatment. Since 2004, GlobalMedic teams have deployed to over 60 humanitarian disasters around the world.

In India, the National Disaster Management Authority is responsible for planning for mitigating effects of natural disasters and anticipating and avoiding man-made disasters. It also coordinates the capacity-building and response of government agencies to crises and emergencies. [9] The National Disaster Response Force is an inter-government disaster response agency that specializes in search, rescue and rehabilitation. [10]

In the US, the Federal Emergency Management Agency coordinates federal operational and logistical disaster response capability needed to save and sustain lives, minimize suffering, and protect property in a timely and effective manner in communities that become overwhelmed by disasters. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer information for specific types of emergencies, such as disease outbreaks, natural disasters and severe weather, as well as chemical and radiation accidents. Also, the Emergency Preparedness and Response Program of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health develops resources to address responder safety and health during responder and recovery operations.

Among volunteers, the American Red Cross is chartered by Congress in 1900 to lead and coordinate non-profit efforts. [11] They are supported by disaster relief organizations from many religious denominations and community service agencies. [12] Licensed amateur radio operators support most volunteer organizations, and are often affiliated with the American Radio Relay League (ARRL).

Disaster response organizations

In addition to the response by the government, a great deal of assistance in the wake of any disaster comes from charities, disaster response and non-governmental organizations. The biggest international umbrella organizations are the Inter-Agency Standing Committee and the International Council of Voluntary Agencies.

Humanitarian OSM Team works to update and provide map in areas struck by disaster. [13]

Disaster response technologies

Smart Emergency Response System (SERS) [14] prototype was built in the SmartAmerica Challenge 2013-2014, [15] a United States government initiative. SERS has been created by a team of nine organizations led by MathWorks. The project was featured at the White House in June 2014 and described by Todd Park (U.S. Chief Technology Officer) as an exemplary achievement.

The SmartAmerica initiative challenges the participants to build cyber-physical systems as a glimpse of the future to save lives, create jobs, foster businesses, and improve the economy. SERS primarily saves lives. The system provides the survivors and the emergency personnel with information to locate and assist each other during a disaster. SERS allows to submit help requests to a MATLAB-based mission center connecting first responders, apps, search-and-rescue dogs, a 6-feet-tall humanoid, robots, drones, and autonomous aircraft and ground vehicles. The command and control center optimizes the available resources to serve every incoming requests and generates an action plan for the mission. The Wi-Fi network is created on the fly by the drones equipped with antennas. In addition, the autonomous rotorcrafts, planes, and ground vehicles are simulated with Simulink and visualized in a 3D environment (Google Earth) to unlock the ability to observe the operations on a mass scale. [16]

The International Charter Space and Major Disasters provides for the charitable retasking of satellite assets, providing coverage from 15 space agencies, etc. which is wide albeit contingent. It focuses on the beginning of the disaster cycle, when timely data is of the essence.

Digital technologies are increasingly being used in humanitarian action, they have shown to improve the health and recovery of populations affected by both natural and man-made disasters. They are used in humanitarian response to facilitate and coordinate aid in various stages including preparedness, response, and recovery from emergencies. More specifically, mobile health (mHealth), which is defined as the use of communication devices such as mobile phones for the purpose of health services information. Nowadays, millions of people use mobile phones as a means of daily communication and data transference, out of which 64% live in developing countries. [17] One of the most important characteristics of disasters are the harms caused to infrastructures, accessibility issues, and an exponential need of medical and emergency services. In such situations, the use of mobile phones for mHealth can be vital, especially when other communication infrastructures are hindered. In such conditions, the abundance of mobile technology in developing countries provide the opportunity to be harnessed for helping victims and vulnerable people. [18]

Mobile health information technology platforms, in the acute phase of disaster response, create a common operational framework that improves disaster response by standardizing data acquisition, organizing information storage, and facilitating communication among medical staff. One of the challenges in disaster response is the need of pertinent, effective and continuous analysis of the situation and information in order to evaluate needs and resources. [19] mHealth has been shown to provide effective disaster preparedness with real time collection of medical data as well as helping identify and create needs assessments during disasters. [20] Using mobile technology in heath has set the stage for the dynamic organization of medical resources and promotion of patient care done through quick triage, patient tracking, and documentation storage and maintenance. [21]

Managing an effective and influential response requires cooperation, which is also facilitated through mHealth. A retrospective study demonstrated that applying mHealth can lead to up to 15% decrease of unnecessary hospital transfers during disasters. [22] In addition, they provide field hospital administrators with real-time census information essential for planning, resource allocation, inter-facility patient transfers, and inter-agency collaboration. mHealth technology systems can improve post-operative care and patient handoffs between volunteer providers. [23] Data entry with mobile devices is now widely used to facilitate the registration of displaced individuals, to conduct surveys, identify those in need of assistance, and to capture data on issues such as food security, vaccination rates, and mortality.

Above all, mHealth can harness the power of information to improve patient outcomes. Efforts lead by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and Operational Medicine Institute during the Haiti earthquake resulted in the creation of a web-based mHealth system that created a patient log of 617 unique entries used by on-the-ground medical providers and field hospital administrators. [24] This helped facilitate provider triage, improve provider handoffs, and track vulnerable populations such as unaccompanied minors, pregnant women, traumatic orthopedic injuries and specified infectious diseases. Also, during the Haiti earthquake, the International Red Crescent sent more than 45 million SMSs to Viole mobile phone users. This resulted in 95% of the receiver reporting they had gained useful information, and out of these 90% reported the SMS helped in their preparedness. [25]

See also

Related Research Articles

Federal Emergency Management Agency United States disaster response agency, part of Department of Homeland Security

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is an agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security, initially created by Presidential Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1978 and implemented by two Executive Orders on April 1, 1979. The agency's primary purpose is to coordinate the response to a disaster that has occurred in the United States and that overwhelms the resources of local and state authorities. The governor of the state in which the disaster occurs must declare a state of emergency and formally request from the president that FEMA and the federal government respond to the disaster. The only exception to the state's gubernatorial declaration requirement occurs when an emergency or disaster takes place on federal property or to a federal asset—for example, the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, or the Space Shuttle Columbia in the 2003 return-flight disaster.

Emergency service Organizations that ensure public safety and health by addressing different emergencies

There are three primary emergency services that can be summoned directly by the public:

A humanitarian crisis is defined as a singular event or a series of events that are threatening in terms of health, safety or well being of a community or large group of people. It may be an internal or external conflict and usually occurs throughout a large land area. Local, national and international responses are necessary in such events.

Emergency management Dealing with all humanitarian aspects of emergencies

Emergency management is the organization and management of the resources and responsibilities for dealing with all humanitarian aspects of emergencies. The aim is to reduce the harmful effects of all hazards, including disasters.

Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act United States federal law designed to bring an orderly and systematic means of federal natural disaster assistance in the United States

The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act is a 1988 United States federal law designed to bring an orderly and systematic means of federal natural disaster assistance for state and local governments in carrying out their responsibilities to aid citizens. Congress' intention was to encourage states and localities to develop comprehensive disaster preparedness plans, prepare for better intergovernmental coordination in the face of a disaster, encourage the use of insurance coverage, and provide federal assistance programs for losses due to a disaster.

National Disaster Medical System federally coordinated healthcare system

The National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) is a federally coordinated healthcare system and partnership of the United States Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Homeland Security (DHS), Defense (DOD), and Veterans Affairs (VA). The purpose of the NDMS is to support State, local, Tribal and Territorial authorities following disasters and emergencies by supplementing health and medical systems and response capabilities. NDMS would also support the military and the Department of Veterans Affairs health care systems in caring for combat casualties, should requirements exceed their capacity.

California Emergency Medical Services Authority

The California Emergency Medical Services Authority is an agency of California State government. The California EMS Authority is one of the thirteen departments within the California Health and Human Services Agency. The director is required to be a physician with substantial experience in emergency medicine. Dave Duncan MD is the current Director.

Preparedness refers to a very concrete research-based set of actions that are taken as precautionary measures in the face of potential disasters. These actions can include both physical preparations and trainings for emergency action. Preparedness is an important quality in achieving goals and in avoiding and mitigating negative outcomes. There are different types of preparedness, such as public health preparedness and local emergency preparedness or snow preparedness, but probably the most developed type is "Disaster Preparedness", defined by the UN as involving "forecasting and taking precautionary measures prior to an imminent threat when advance warnings are possible". This includes not only natural disasters, but all kinds of severe damage caused in a relatively short period, including warfare. Preparedness is a major phase of emergency management, and is particularly valued in areas of competition such as sport and military science.

An environmental emergency is defined as a "sudden-onset disaster or accident resulting from natural, technological or human-induced factors, or a combination of these, that causes or threatens to cause severe environmental damage as well as loss of human lives and property."

Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management

The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management (OEM) is a department of the government of Oklahoma responsible for coordinating the response to a natural disaster that has occurred in the State and that has overwhelmed the abilities of local authorities. This is achieved primarily through the development and maintenance of a comprehensive statewide emergency management plan. OEM is responsible for coordinating the efforts of the federal government with other state departments and agencies, county and municipal governments and school boards, and with private agencies that have a role in emergency management.

Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security agency

The Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security (OKOHS) is an agency of State of Oklahoma that is responsible for reducing the State's vulnerability to acts of terrorism and for minimizing and recovering the damage caused by terrorist attacks. OKOHS is a division of the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety.

Center for Domestic Preparedness U.S. federal facility

The Center for Domestic Preparedness is the only U.S. federal facility chartered to provide comprehensive preparedness training programs to the nation's emergency response providers. In 2007, the CDP became part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance

The Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance (CFE) is a direct reporting unit to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) and principal agency to promote disaster preparedness and societal resiliency in the Asia-Pacific region. As part of its mandate, CFE facilitates education and training in disaster preparedness, consequence management and health security to develop domestic, foreign and international capability and capacity.

Mass gathering medicine, also known as event medicine,crowd medicine or mass gathering health, is a field of medicine that explores the health effects/risks of mass gatherings and the strategies that contribute positively to effective health services delivery during these events. The reason for the development of the field of medicine gives the fact that mass gatherings generate a higher incidence of injury and illness, may be the subject to a catastrophic accident or attack with large numbers of injured or dead persons.

The World Association for Disaster and Emergency Medicine (WADEM) is an international organization concerned with disaster medicine. Originally named the Club of Mainz, it was founded on October 2, 1976. It has hosted the World Congress on Disaster and Emergency Medicine every two years since 1979. Additionally, it publishes the peer-reviewed journal Prehospital and Disaster Medicine.

Emergency Responder Health Monitoring and Surveillance

Emergency Responder Health Monitoring and Surveillance (ERHMS) is a health monitoring and surveillance framework developed by a consortium of federal agencies, state health departments, and volunteer responder groups designed to address existing gaps in surveillance and health monitoring of emergency responders. The framework provides recommendations, guidelines, tools, and trainings to protect emergency responders during each phase of an emergency response, including pre-deployment, deployment, and post-deployment phases. ERHMS was designed to function within the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA's) National Incident Management System (NIMS), a systematic approach to emergency management. The ERHMS trainings satisfy Public Health Emergency Preparedness capability 14, "Responder Safety and Health."

The Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) is an organizational unit within the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) that is charged by the President of the United States with directing and coordinating international United States government disaster assistance.

Disaster social work is the practice of social work during natural disasters. This field specializes in strengthening individuals and communities in the wake of a natural disaster. It includes working with the most vulnerable members of a community while strengthening the community as a whole in order to help with the recovery process.

Emily Ying Yang Chan Academic

Emily Ying Yang Chan is a humanitarian doctor and public health academic based in Hong Kong, China. She is the Assistant Dean and Professor of the Chinese University of Hong Kong Faculty of Medicine, Head of the Division of Global Health and Humanitarian Medicine at the Jockey Club School of Public Health and Primary Care, Director at the Centre for Global Health (CGH), Director of the Collaborating Centre for Oxford University and CUHK for Disaster and Medical Humanitarian Response (CCOUC), Director of the Centre of Excellence (ICoE-CCOUC) of Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR), Visiting Professor of Public Health Medicine at the Oxford University Nuffield Department of Medicine, Fellow at Harvard University FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, Honorary Professor at University of Hong Kong Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, and Fellow at Hong Kong Academy of Medicine. She was appointed CEO of the GX Foundation in 2019.

Hamidreza Khankeh is an Iranian scientist in field of Emergency and Disaster Health. He became known for his development of national guideline to prepare hospitals against disasters, National Respond Framework in disasters and integrating emergencies numbers in Iran. He has been member Academy of Medical Science Iran since 2016... Khankeh has been head of department and research center of Health in Emergency and Disaster in University of Social Welfare and Rehabilitation Science Tehran since 2012. From 2017 he has held vice chancellor for National Emergency Medical Organization of Iran, national advisor for deputy of nursing in Ministry of Health in emergency and disaster and also advisor of National Disaster Management Organization and Tehran Disaster Mitigation and Management Organization



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