Emergency Response in Disaster Management

What is Emergency Response in Disaster Management?

The emergency response includes the fundamental services and activities that are undertaken during the initial impact or in the aftermath of a disaster including those to save lives and prevent further damage to property (Bhatti, 2003:59; Kapucu, 2008:244; Kreps et al. 2006:20). The primary aims of disaster response are rescued from immediate danger and stabilization of the physical and emotional condition of survivors. These go hand in hand with the recovery of the dead and the restoration of essential services such as water and power. How long this takes varies according to the scale, type and context of the disaster but typically takes between one and six months and is composed of a search and rescue phase in the immediate aftermath of a disaster followed by a medium-term phase devoted to stabilizing the survivors’ physical and emotional condition.

What is Emergency Response?

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Elements of Emergency Response in Disaster Management

1. Activate the emergency operation centres (control room);

2. Deployment of search and rescue teams.

3. Issuing updated warning;

4. Setting up community kitchens using local groups;

5. Set up temporary living accommodation and toilet facilities;

6. Set up medical camps;

7. Mobilising resources.


8 Principles of Emergency Response in Disaster Management


Anticipation is crucial in both the pre-emergency and post-emergency phases. Anticipation is commonly used to describe the first phase of the Integrated Emergency Management (IEM) process, which sees organisations actively ―horizon-scanning‖ for risks and potential emergencies. Anticipation is also a principle of effective response and recovery, and, at the strategic level, the risk focus must be forwards, upwards and outwards, with more operational risks being appropriately addressed at lower levels

An important aspect of anticipation is addressing recovery issues at the earliest possible opportunity, ensuring that the response and recovery effort is fully integrated. This will ensure that recovery priorities are factored into the initial response, and will ensure coherence between the two streams of activity. Ideally, the two activities should be taken forward in tandem from the outset, although in some cases constraints on capacity may necessitate a degree of separation, with the recovery effort gathering momentum once the initial risk to life has been addressed


All individuals and organisations that might play a part in the response and recovery effort should be appropriately prepared. This requires a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities and how they fit into the wider, multi-agency picture.

The Act requires those organisations likely to be at the core of an emergency response to work together to ensure that they are prepared for emergencies, as identified through the national to local processes of risk assessment. Emergency Preparedness explains the requirements of the legislation and offers good practice advice to local responders


The UK‘s approach to emergency response and recovery is founded on a bottom-up approach in which operations are managed and decisions are made at the lowest appropriate level. In all cases, local agencies are the building blocks of response and recovery operations. Indeed, the local level deals with most emergencies with little or no input from the sun-national or national levels

The role of the central government and the devolved administrations is to support and supplement the efforts of local responders through the provision of resources and coordination. The central and sub-national tiers will only become involved in emergency response and recovery efforts where it is necessary or helpful to do so


When an emergency occurs, those responsible for managing the response and recovery effort will face an array of competing demands and pressures. These will vary according to the event or situation that caused the emergency, the speed of its onset, the geographical area affected, any concurrent or interdependent events, and many other factors. The information available will often be incomplete, inaccurate or ambiguous, and perceptions of the situation may differ within and between organisations. The response and recovery effort may involve many organisations, potentially from across the public, private and voluntary sectors, and each will have its own responsibilities, capabilities and priorities that require coordination.

It is, nevertheless, equally important to establish a clear aim and objectives to bring direction and coherence to the activities of multiple agencies under circumstances of sustained pressure, complexity and potential hazard and volatility. The government may, in certain limited circumstances, assume the role of setting the strategic direction where only it is in a position to deliver the necessary coordination.




Information is critical to emergency response and recovery, yet maintaining the flow of information, within agencies, with partners, and to the wider public, is extremely challenging under emergency conditions. The importance of information to emergency responders and those affected by events must not be underestimated. Effective information management is dependent upon appropriate preparatory measures being in place to build situational awareness and the development of a Common Recognised Information Picture (CRIP) at the local, sub-national and national levels (if appropriate). Such measures will need to support:

a) the transmission and collation of potentially high volumes of information from multiple sources;

b) the assessment of collated information to ensure its relevance, accuracy, timeliness, accessibility, interpretability and transparency; and

c) the translation of available information into appropriate information products, for example, briefing the Strategic Co-ordinating Group or national groups, or release to the media for public information

There is a balance to be struck between ensuring that decisions are well informed and acting swiftly and decisively. Establishing systematic information management systems and embedding them within multi-agency emergency management arrangements will enable the right balance to be struck.

It is important to note that voluntary and private sector organisations will typically need to be included in the multi-agency response and, as such, they must be integrated into the information management structures and processes that are established, trained, exercised and tested. In particular, the sharing of information in a way that is responsive to the needs of emergency responders, and is compliant with data protection and other legislation, needs to be thoroughly understood and tested.

Where likely information requirements have been defined, local responders need to follow the established templates for such information products, whether these are locally determined or supplied from the sub-national or national level. Additionally, the use of such templates, and information management more broadly, should be embedded and evaluated through training and exercising


Responding to, and recovering from, emergencies is a multi-agency activity that may involve many organisations. Their involvement, role and relative prominence may change between phases of the emergency. Furthermore, depending on the nature and severity of the event or situation, there may also be involvement from sub-national and national levels. It is crucial that the contributions of respective organisations are integrated.

The range of organisations involved in emergency response and recovery can pose difficulties for the effective management of local operations, and this underlines the importance of putting in place clearly defined structures to ensure that key agencies can:

a) combine and act as a coherent multi-agency group;

b) consult, agree and decide on key issues; and

c) issue instructions, policies and guidance to which emergency response partners will conform.

This will only be achieved if structures and processes are formulated through careful planning, and embedded through operations and regular training and exercising. In greater detail, the generic multi-agency framework for the management and coordination of local operations, while Emergency Preparedness covers the work required in the preparatory phases to enable effective integration.



Emergency response and recovery is a multi-agency activity. The management of emergencies brings together a wide range of organisations that are not bound by hierarchical relationships. Although one agency may take the lead in relation to an emergency, or a phase or an aspect of that emergency, decision-making processes should always aim to be inclusive and, wherever possible, arrive at consensual decisions.

Mutual trust and understanding are, therefore, the fundamental building blocks of effective multi-agency operations. Organisations must understand each other‘s functions, ways of working, priorities and constraints. This will facilitate the open dialogue that is essential for a common aim and objectives to be developed, agreed and worked towards. Furthermore, openness between agencies must be supported and assured by a commitment to the confidentiality of shared information when dealing with third parties or the public at large. Unauthorised disclosure of information or unilateral action will not only prejudice cohesion but may also undermine operational effectiveness.


Emergency response and recovery arrangements in the United Kingdom are founded on the premise that those organisations undertaking functions on a day-to-day basis are best placed to exercise them in the demanding circumstances of an emergency. The experience, expertise, resources and relationships they have established will be crucial, even though they may be deployed in a different way or supported by neighbouring areas. For this reason, the CCA imposes a duty on those organisations to plan for emergencies in respect of their everyday role.

Effective response and recovery will be grounded in tried and tested arrangements built on everyday working practices. Wherever possible, response and recovery arrangements should preserve established structures and ways of doing things that people know well. By their very nature, emergencies require the special deployment of staff and resources. Wherever roles, responsibilities and organisational arrangements are different in emergency mode, these should be embedded through training and exercising.

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