Section 3: Key Actions within 72 Hours of Disaster

Section 3: Key Actions within 72 Hours of Disaster

This section describes the actions that should be taken in the first 72 hours after a disaster. It explains what the member/country programme should do, as well as the support that should be provided by other parts of the organisation. This section summarises the key information and actions that are required, and contains references to the annexes where there are relevant templates and detailed guidance on each activity. It is designed as a practical guide for staff across the organisation who have a role in responding to disasters. It should ideally be read before an emergency, but can also be used as a resource to refer to during an emergency response.


Key Points

  • In RED and ORANGE alert level emergencies, ActionAid expects members/country programmes to respond. IHART mobilises and co-ordinates the federation’s resources to support the response. In YELLOW alert level emergencies, members/country programmes are advised to respond.

The member/country programme should:

  • Activate Emergency Preparedness Plan (EPP).

  • Conduct a rapid assessment to gather basic information about the disaster and impact on the communities that ActionAid works with.

  • Trained EFAST member(s) can be deployed within 48 hours to the disaster-affected country if required.

  • Commence relief activities focusing on saving lives and addressing the immediate needs of the most vulnerable groups, women and children. In addition to food, water, shelter etc, the immediate response also includes information, psychosocial support, accountability and policy linkages.

In addition:

  • Information management: in emergencies, IHART acts as the central co-ordinating body for information on the disaster and ActionAid’s response. A situation report (sitrep) is to be completed within 24 hours of the disaster and at regular intervals after that.

  • International Programme Managers (IPMs) have responsibility for emergency preparedness and response in a specific geographic region. In orange and red alert emergencies, IHART may deploy an IPM to support the member/country programme.

  • Management response: in RED and ORANGE alert emergencies, IHART supports the disaster-affected member/country programme to establish a management response system to oversee and direct effective and efficient delivery of the emergency response.

  • Oversight group: formed of International Senior Leadership Team members (or their representatives), and chaired by the Head of IHART, an Oversight Group is formed in ORANGE and RED alert disasters to help guide and monitor the disaster response.

  • Review and update the security assessment and security plan. Staff security must be ActionAid’s top priority in disasters. All countries where ActionAid has a presence must already have security risk analysis and plans in place before a disaster strikes. If ActionAid responds outside its usual operating area, security analysis and plans must be developed.

  • Members/country programmes should sign a new MOU with all partners (even existing partners with whom they have worked prior to the emergency) at the start of the response.

  • Fundraising must be started within 72 hours of a disaster. IHART co-ordinates the emergency response fundraising. In RED alert disasters, all fundraising affiliates are expected to launch public or supporter fundraising appeals. In ORANGE alert disasters, while fundraising remains a priority, it is not expected that affiliates will launch public or supporter appeals, although if they feel that there is a particular opportunity for these, they should discuss with IHART and International Fundraising.

  • Communications in emergencies: the first 24/48 hours of any emergency are crucial for media, communications and fundraising. ActionAid must be immediately visible at the local, national and international level. If required, deployment of an Emergency News Officer can be made in the first 12-24 hours of a rapid onset emergency or at an appropriate time during a slow onset emergency.

  • Co-ordination with UN clusters and INGO/NGO platforms: it is particularly important for ActionAid to engage with relevant clusters from the start of the disaster response. The member/country programme should also engage with other country level actors including INGO/NGOs.


Summary of key actions

The following table summarises the key actions that should be taken in the first 72 hours following a sudden onset disaster, or following a recognised spike (as assessed by the member/country programme and/or IHART) in a slow onset disaster. A fuller description of each activity is included in the text below. The RASCI matrix sets out in detail the roles that individuals and departments across the organisation are expected to play, and where accountability lies for each activity. The key point to remember is that during disasters, it cannot be ‘business as usual’ – different ways of working and different priorities will be needed.

In case of red and orange alert level emergencies, the ActionAid standard operating procedure (SOP) expects members/country programmes to respond. However, in yellow alert level emergencies, members/country programmes are advised to respond. This section defines expectations of IHART in such circumstances.

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Implementing disaster response

Activate preparedness plan

Who does this: member/country programme

All ActionAid countries, but particularly those that are disaster prone (to both natural disasters and/or conflict)see The Hive – should develop an emergency preparedness plan before a crisis. This sets out the basic information that is required to assess and prepare for likely disasters. It also provides an action plan for the member/country programme to ensure that ActionAid staff, partners and communities know what to do in a disaster and are ready to respond quickly and effectively. During the 2012-2017 strategy period IHART is working with 24 countries identified as the most vulnerable to disasters, to develop and implement emergency preparedness plans. (see The Hive for the list of prioritised countries).

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Information management

Ensuring the right information is available at the right time is critical to enable ActionAid to undertake timely, effective and accountable humanitarian responses, as well as to co-ordinate with others and capitalise on fundraising, media and influencing opportunities. Managing information during a humanitarian emergency is a crucial part of any operation. Knowing what is happening, where, who is affected and why, the causes of the disaster, what affected people’s needs are and what the policy and funding environment is like is essential to enable ActionAid to make decisions around the strategic direction of our response. Conversely, a lack of information can hinder our ability to initiate a rapid programme response, which may cost lives and increase suffering, and may mean we miss the vital window of opportunity for building our profile as a responding agency and raising much-Infomation sharing needed income for response.

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Management response

As the disaster response progresses, the country programme will develop an Emergency Response and Resilience Building Plan (ERRP). This is described in section 4. However, there are certain processes and systems that need to be put in place in the first 72 hours to make sure that the programme is effective.

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Reallocate internal funds and access national contingency funds

Who does this: member/country programme, with support of Country Co-ordination and International Finance

Fundraising in emergencies, particularly for smaller scale and slow onset disasters, can be a challenge and often the fastest and most appropriate source of funding for disaster response is at the national level. In most cases, the member/country programme is expected to make efforts to access national level funds before seeking funding support from the wider ActionAid federation or global donors.

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Communications in emergencies

The first 24-48 hours of any emergency are crucial for media, communications and fundraising purposes.

The NGO arena is a crowded one. ActionAid must be visible from the word GO at the local, national and international level (including in media) so our supporters, donors, potential new supporters, decision makers, the public, etc. can associate us with the disaster – knowing we are there on the ground responding to people’s immediate needs at the same time as protecting, promoting and fulfilling their rights.

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Engage with relevant UN clusters at national and sub-national levels

Who does this: member/country programme

Clusters are groups of agencies working in particular sectors of humanitarian response (e.g. education, WASH, shelter, protection etc). They were established as part of the UN process of humanitarian reform and are designed to strengthen co-ordination between humanitarian actors. Each cluster has a lead agency (normally a UN agency) that is responsible for running cluster meetings and supporting cluster members.

In a major emergency, the UN humanitarian co-ordinator will activate the clusters, usually in consultation with the government and/or where an international appeal for assistance has been made. This decision will be communicated to all agencies that are registered as cluster members within that country. The cluster co-ordinator will contact members to inform them of plans and invite them to meetings.

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