Emergency Preparedness

In the wake of a sudden-onset disaster, the first days and weeks are the most critical in terms of saving lives. Yet, even well-prepared governments usually face initial challenges during major emergencies, when needs frequently exceed resources available at local and national levels. This is when the international community can be called upon to augment and expedite national response.

OCHA’s emphasis is moving towards strengthening partnerships for improved humanitarian response at the country and regional levels, and supporting governments and regional organizations in their response-preparedness efforts.

In simple terms, OCHA’s preparedness activities are aimed at creating favorable conditions for a successful emergency response.

As the coordinator of international humanitarian response, OCHA has three emergency preparedness responsibilities in strengthening the following areas:

  1. OCHA's internal response capacity
  2. The capability of the humanitarian actors in-country to make a coordinated emergency response 
  3. The capacity of national authorities and regional organizations to request or help mobilize international humanitarian assistance and to effectively utilize the in-country humanitarian coordination system.

OCHA has delivered on these responsibilities by strengthening Humanitarian Country Teams in order to build its internal response capacity. OCHA also contributes to the emergency preparedness of the international community through managing international response tools, such as the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) system, the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) and civil-military coordination.

OCHA also promotes inter-agency efforts to strengthen governments’ capacity to better respond to disasters.

Key aspects of OCHA’s preparedness work

  • The benefits of strengthening disaster preparedness are cost effectiveness and the delivery of effective humanitarian response.
  • While governments have the primary responsibility to strengthen national response capacity, the humanitarian community must support governments' efforts.
  • As climate change and emerging humanitarian trends will exacerbate the risk of disasters, there is an increasing need for national emergency preparedness.

What is Emergency Preparedness?

Emergency preparedness is the knowledge and capacity developed by governments, recovery organizations, communities and individuals, to anticipate, respond to and recover from the impact of potential, imminent or current hazard events, or emergency situations that call for a humanitarian response. 

The need for adequate emergency preparedness systems and the importance of applying a multi-hazard approach will continue to grow as global threats such as urbanization, food insecurity and climate change become increasingly important drivers of humanitarian needs. Over the last years, OCHA developed a more systematic and holistic approach to response preparedness. Starting from an understanding that the speed of delivery and the volume of relief assistance are crucial in a sudden onset disaster, ROAP is focused on laying the groundwork through better and broader preparedness planning. By pre-identifying key immediate needs, preparedness efforts can be improved through more efficient mobilization and prepositioning of humanitarian and government stocks, as well as those of other actors able to quickly mobilize relief assistance. Two such actors are the business community and national/foreign military civil defence assets.