Section 3: Key Actions within 72 Hours of Disaster


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.

Establish an emergency programme management structure

Who does this: member/country programme, with support from IHART

To manage the disaster response effectively, it is important that all ActionAid staff and partners clearly understand what tasks they are expected to carry out. The actions described below will help to ensure this happens. In orange and red alert disasters, the IHART IPM will be responsible for supporting the member/country programme to put this programme management structure in place. In yellow alerts, it is up to the member/country programme to decide if the emergency programme management structure is required.

Appoint an Emergency Response Manager (ERM)

The ERM is a member of the ActionAid member/country programme staff who is responsible for the implementation of the disaster response programme. The ERM will have an existing role within ActionAid and will be expected to shift role when a disaster happens. In orange and red alert disasters, the IHART IPMwill take on this role until a suitable candidate can be identified. The Country Director is responsible for selecting and appointing the ERM, with the input of the IPM. Normally, the ERM will be chosen from senior members of the member/country programme team (for example the LRP manager) with experience in disaster response. The ERM will continue in this role until the disaster response is complete or until they can hand over responsibility to an external ERM who is recruited to manage the response in the longer term (this may happen in major emergencies). Annex 6 contains a generic ToR for the ERM, which describes the main functions of this role, and the necessary skills and experience. This should be adapted for the specific context. If the country programme is unable to identify a suitable candidate for the ERM, they can request an EFAST deployment.

Establish an Emergency Response Team (ERT)

The ERT is the group of ActionAid staff and partners who are responsible for implementing the disaster response. The group is led by the ERM. The ERT would normally consist of four to six people and should be of decision-making level; they should also represent the different geographical areas where response is being implemented as well as different functions. Their role is to plan, co-ordinate and review the progress of the disaster response. The group should meet daily, either by phone or in person to share updates and plan activities. The ERT should agree on clear protocols for information sharing (internally and externally). Annex 7 contains a generic ToR for the ERT, which describes its main functions and suggestions for membership of the group. This ToR should be adapted for the specific context.

Cover ongoing staff responsibilities

The Country Director should ensure that arrangements are in place to cover the ongoing responsibilities (i.e. planned activities not related to the disaster response) of staff who are engaged in the disaster response. It is the responsibility of the Country Director to decide on the most appropriate way to do this: he or she may decide to temporarily suspend non-emergency programmes; to bring in additional temporary staff; or to allocate additional responsibilities to staff not engaged in the disaster response. The Country Director should remember that ActionAid is obliged to respond to disasters that affect the communities that ActionAid works with, and that orange and red alert level disasters must take precedence over ‘normal’ programmes. Country Directors should discuss with line managers in Country Co-ordination for advice on suspending or delaying work not related to the emergency (for example, deadlines related to country strategy paper development etc).

Once decisions around re-prioritisation have been taken, the Country Director should communicate them widely (what is being stopped, deferred or reduced) within the country programme, to partners, to donors (if appropriate) and to the Secretariat (if appropriate) so the federation recognises that it is not ‘business as usual’. This will ensure employees are not held accountable for work/outputs that were in their original plans.

Define responsibilities and accountabilities of staff

The functions of key members of staff should be clearly set out, including their authority levels and the processes of decision-making. These can be defined through ToRs, job descriptions or a RASCI matrix, as appropriate. Much of this can be done in advance of a disaster, and can form part of the emergency preparedness plan (see Section 6). The pre-defined roles and responsibilities can then be reviewed and activated in a disaster.

Also look at the START Network humanitarian competency framework, which describes the important competencies and behaviours for humanitarian workers – this can be used to write/amend job descriptions and develop competency-based questions for recruitment interviews. (see The Hive)

Link management structures to the Oversight Group

In ORANGE and RED alert disasters, an Oversight Group will be established to guide and monitor the response. This is described in more detail here.

Establish MOUs with existing and new partners

Who does this: member/country programme

During disasters, it may be necessary to review existing partnerships and put in place new partnership arrangements. For example, members/country programmes may work with partners who are excellent in specific fields of long-term development; they may not, however, have the necessary skills to implement disaster response. For the majority of disaster responses, ActionAid will continue to work with existing partners. However in some cases, we may need to establish new programmes with existing partners, or establish new partnerships in areas where the disaster response is being implemented.

At the start of the response, members/ country programmes should sign a new MOU with all partners (even existing partners with whom they have worked prior to the emergency). This MOU should outline new commitments regarding the implementation of the emergency programme. A template for an emergency MOU is currently being finalised.

As in the rest of ActionAid’s work, partnerships in emergencies are based on shared perspectives, understanding and vision. They are based on mutual respect, accountability and complementarities. There will be clear roles and responsibilities, harnessing collective power to achieve common goals. Identifying and building relationships with potential partners in disaster-prone areas is an important part of ActionAid’s preparedness work.

According to ActionAid’s partnership policy, the following documents are the core accountability documents that every partnership process should aim to formulate, review and approve. They should be accessible, and should be retrievable by management, programme and finance staff and auditors at any time during the partnership.

  • Partnership agreement – this may be short- or long-term and may be a one-off agreement or renewable by mutual agreement. (Supporting partners in security risk management)

  • Programme memorandum (or project document) – this is an annex to the partnership agreement, detailing the mission-level objectives, specific activities, budget and monitoring/success indicators, with clear time frames and means of verification. It also includes a grant disbursement schedule.

  • Programme and financial reporting formats – the format and content is agreed with the partners at the time of signing the partnership agreement. They may be dependent on donor reporting requirements, where ActionAid donors have specific information needs.

Review and update the security assessment and security plan

Who does this: member/country programme, with support from Global Security Adviser

Staff security must be ActionAid’s top priority in disasters and must be an integral part of all disaster response programmes. 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 as outlined below. Provisions for staff security should be guided by the global staff security policy, which is summarised here

In the first 72 hours, the country programme must:

  • Conduct an updated security analysis: at the very start of the disaster response programme, the security analysis should be updated to determine potential risks and threats to staff and assets. Disasters can dramatically change the security context and the safety of staff implementing disaster response must be seriously considered. If the response is outside usual operating areas, security analysis must be conducted within 24-48 hours. See the Hive for a template for the security analysis and guidance on how to complete it.

  • Update the security plan: based on the security analysis, appropriate mechanisms should be put in place to mitigate and manage security risks. The security plan must be in place before an emergency occurs, but is to be updated in the first 72 hours and shared with country programme staff and partners. This should be done in close consultation with the designated security focal point (this person should be identified and trained in advance of the emergency and should already have worked on putting minimum security standards in place). See guidance here. It should also be shared with the Global Security Advisor (contact details Annex 4). See the Hive for a template for the security plan and guidance for how to complete it. When responding to an emergency outside usual operating areas, a security plan must be developed within the first 72 hours.

The security analysis and security plan should be regularly reviewed and updated, and the implications for the delivery of the disaster response programme considered. This should be done with input from partners and formal sources, such as government and inter-agency mechanisms. ActionAid should also continue to share information on security risks with partners and with other humanitarian actors, for example through the UN cluster system.

Establish Oversight Group

Who does this: Director of Country Co-ordination, or Chief Executive Officer

The Oversight Group (OG) is a group of senior staff from across the ActionAid federation, which is formed in orange and red alert disasters to help guide and monitor the disaster response.

The purpose of the OG is to:

  • Provide organisational risk management (including reputational, financial and staff security risks).

  • Be accountable for the co-ordinated support of the ActionAid federation to the implementing country or countries.

  • Approve the emergency response and resilience programme framework, to ensure effective collaborative efforts and synergies.

  • Be accountable for making links to longer term development programmes.

The OG will be established within 24 hours of an orange or red alert level being declared. In orange alert disasters, the OG will be established by the Director for Country Co-ordination. In red alert disasters, the OG is established by the Chief Executive Officer. In both orange and red alert disasters, the OG is chaired by the Head of IHART.

The OG normally includes the Country Director(s) of the affected country/ies, representatives from the Country Co-ordination Directorate, representatives from affiliates fundraising for the disaster response and representatives from International Secretariat functions such as communications, fundraising and policy. The membership of each OG is selected by the Director of Country Co-ordination in orange alert disasters and the CEO in red alert disasters, based on advice from IHART.

The OG meets weekly in the initial stages of red and orange alert disasters. As the response progresses, the frequency of the meetings may reduce to monthly and then quarterly – this decision is taken by the Chair of the Oversight Group. The recommendation to cease the OG is taken by the group collectively; the decision is taken and finally communicated by the person responsible for originally initiating the Group (the CEO in red alert emergencies, or the International Director of County Co-ordination in orange alert emergencies). When this happens, responsibility for the management of the disaster response moves to the Country Director of the affected country.

Annex 2 contains a generic ToR for the Oversight Group, which sets out the scope and functions of the group and suggested membership. IHART is responsible for providing technical and administrative support to the group.