EMERGENCY response coordination

Emergency Services Branch

The Emergency Services Branch (ESB) ensures OCHA’s quick and effective response to natural disasters and other
rapid-onset emergencies, using an integrated package of over 50 internationally recognized services and tools. The
Branch’s activities include:

    1. strengthening national and regional disaster preparedness and response capacities;
    2. facilitating initial disaster assessment and coordination through the timely deployment of well-trained and
      equipped United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) teams;
    3. supporting effective international response efforts through the provision of civil–military coordination experts, logistical support, emergency shipment assistance, information technology expertise and emergency relief stocks;
    4. managing rosters and networks to ensure the availability of humanitarian specialists, environmental experts, and
      technical support modules to support field operations; and
    5. working with partners to ensure appropriate international standards for response are met, including in international urban search and rescue (INSARAG) activities, civil–military coordination and emergency telecommunications.

ESB manages a range of partnerships and networks, and it has facilitated the expansion of humanitarian partnerships
into Asia through the development of the Asia-Pacific Humanitarian Partnership. New stakeholders have also been
engaged by ESB through a range of collaborative approaches, such as the Environmental Emergencies Partnership. NGOs, including Map Action and Télécoms sans Frontières, are valuable partners that help OCHA ensure a comprehensive emergency response. (table)

ESB aims to increase its partners’ awareness of both OCHA and other response tools and mechanisms, and in doing so
to contribute to the advancement of a systematic approach to disaster response and response preparedness.

ESB consists of five sections: EBS consists of five sections: the Civil–Military Coordination Section; the Environmental Emergencies Section; the Field Coordination Support Section; the Surge Capacity Section; and the Logistics Support Unit – each with its own area of expertise and tools for disaster response. In addition, a new Emergency Relief Coordination Centre, which can support teams working in two emergencies simultaneously, forms part of the Branch.
ESB’s key challenges in 2008 will be:

    1. to strengthen further coordination support and toolss for response to humanitarian emergencies, including natural
    2. to integrate better OCHA’s response mechanisms and tools (including surge capacity) into humanitarian policy
      and practice in countries affected by humanitarian emergencies; and
    3. to plan, mobilize and coordinate emergency response operations in support of governments, Resident
      Coordinators/Humanitarian Coordinators (RCs/HCs) and the donor community – enhanced by the effective use of
      emergency response tools.

Civil–Military Coordination Section

The Civil–Military Coordination Section (CMCS) is the United Nations system’s focal point for the mobilization of Military and Civil Defence Assets (MCDA) for use in humanitarian emergencies. It is also the focal point for liaison with governments, international organizations, regional organizations and military/civil defence entities deploying these assets. CMCS manages and conducts the United Nations Civil–Military Coordination (UN-CMCoord) training programme along with pre-deployment training courses for military and civilian actors. It also coordinates United Nations agency participation in major military
exercises simulating humanitarian scenarios.

The Section is responsible for the overall management of the OCHA Central Register of Disaster Management Capacities and maintains the MCDA Directory – a register of MCDA and expertise. CMCS is the custodian of the Oslo and MCDA Guidelines which detail the use of MCDA in support of United Nations humanitarian operations in natural, technological and environmental disasters and complex emergencies respectively.

CMCS’s key challenges in 2008:

    1. providing improved civil–military coordination support to RCs/HCs following natural disasters;
    2. strengthening promotion of the effective and appropriate use of MCDA in response to international humanitarian
      operations; and
    3. enhancing the utility and value of the MCDA Directory.

Key Objectives, Outputs and Indicators

Objective: Improved coordination structures at country, regional and international levels
Outputs Indicators
Regional CMCoord structures established and sustained. Countryspecific CMCoord guidelines that support the operational aspects of the humanitarian response system in complex emergencies developed and established. Number of regional and sub-regional CMCoord mechanisms established. Country-specific CMCoord guidelines established where military forces
are actively engaged.

Strengthened OCHA emergency response capacity
Outputs Indicators
Trained UN -CMCoord Officers available for deployment. Use of Central Register/MCDA Directory improved. Enhanced utility and value of MCDA Directory and MCDA requesting procedures. Number of UN -CMCoord Officers on deployment roster fit for purpose. Number of Member States committed to maintenance and use of the Central Register/MCDA Directory.

More strategic advocacy of humanitarian principles and issues
Outputs Indicators
UN -CMCoord guidelines, humanitarian principles and UN -CMCoord Officer field handbook systematically disseminated to partners and used. Humanitarian aspects of civil–military coordination incorporated into domestic and international training curricula. UN -CMCoord training
programme delivered to military and civilian actors. Military exercises simulating humanitarian scenarios supported.
Percentage of civil–military related partners incorporating UN -CMCoord guidelines, handbook and humanitarian principles in their activities. Number of training institutions including UN -CMCoord in their curricula. Number of UN -CMCoord training programmes delivered. Number of
simulations supported.

Environmental Emergencies Section

The Environmental Emergencies Section (EES) is the United Nations’ mechanism for providing international assistance
to countries facing environmental emergencies and natural disasters with significant environmental impact. It ensures
that any acute, life-threatening environmental effects of disasters are identified and addressed, and that an effective
transition from environmental emergency response to recovery takes place. EES is a partnership between OCHA
and the United Nations Environment Programme.

The Section provides three main services:

    1. Mobilizing and coordinating the international response to environmental emergencies. This involves rapidly
      identifying acute environmental risks from major disasters, and mobilizing people and resources to address
      them. EES manages a global roster of experts and maintains accords with private sector, NGO, academic
      and other partners to ensure that specialized equipment and expertise can be deployed on short notice to any
      location. The Section has a number of assessment tools that can be used to gauge the environmental effects of
      disasters, such as the Flash Environmental Assessment Tool. It also manages the production and dissemination of
      desk-based Environmental Risk Identifications, which are provided to IASC or United Nations Country Teams in the
      hours following a disaster to identify possible hazardous facilities.
    2. Strengthening national government capacity to respond to environmental emergencies in disaster-affected
      countries. EES organizes and leads capacity assessments, multi-stakeholder training sessions and workshops, and
      facilitates the exchange of international good practice, depending on country needs.
    3. Developing and supporting diverse partnerships to strengthen the international regime governing environmental emergencies and increasing the focus on environment in disasters. EES provides secretariat services for the Advisory Group on Environmental Emergencies (AGEE), which is a unique international forum that brings together governments, academics, NGOs and civil society across environmental and disaster management disciplines to develop partnerships and exchange lessons learned and good practice. Governments have recently agreed to a major new initiative (‘the
      Rosersberg Initiative’) to strengthen the international regime that governs environmental emergencies in several
      key areas. To ensure implementation of this initiative, EES will: conduct baseline research on ways of improving
      governance; develop recommendations for consideration by AGEE working groups; and organize international
      meetings to discuss and launch activities.

In 2008, EES will continue to focus on strengthening its capacity to provide rapid, effective response. In particular, the Section needs to ensure the availability of more experts in response to the growing number of environmental disasters and corresponding increase in requests for assistance.

EES’s key challenges in 2008:

    1. ensuring a continued, effective response to the environmental aspects of disasters;
    2. carrying out the Rosersberg Initiative – in particular supporting governments and other partners in researching, prioritizing and launching activities – while continuing to manage all normal emergency functions; and
    3. raising awareness among the United Nations and governments of the importance of rapidly identifying and
      addressing the environmental impacts of all disasters.

Key Objectives, Outputs and Indicators

Improved coordination structures at country, regional and international levels
Outputs Indicators
Systematic deployment of environmental experts on all relevant UNDAC and non-UNDAC missions where expertise is needed to identify and address acute environmental issues. Percentage of requests for environmental experts met.

Strengthened OCHA emergency response capacity
Outputs Indicators
At the request of national governments, multi-stakeholder environmental emergency capacity-building assistance provided (for example, assisting with environmental emergency contingency planning and training). International rosters of environmental emergency experts strengthened. Percentage of requests for capacity-building missions met. Number of environmental experts added to existing rosters (subject to government nominations and support).

Action-oriented analysis of humanitarian trends and emerging policy issues
Outputs Indicators
Analysis undertaken of international environmental emergency governance challenges leading to concrete recommendations for improving the international regime governing environmental emergencies. As part of the Rosersberg Initiative, baseline analysis completed and presented to governments.

A common approach to needs assessments and impact evaluation
Outputs Indicators
Finalization and field testing of the Flash Environmental Assessment Tool to assist in the identification of acute environmental risks and potential impacts following a disaster. Flash Environmental Assessment Tool field tested.

Field Coordination and Support Section

The Field Coordination and Support Section’s (FCSS) role is to strengthen the coordination capacity of OCHA and
affected governments during the emergency phase following a disaster, while more generally contributing to OCHA’s
mandate to boost response preparedness in developing countries.

FCSS acts as the Secretariat for INSARAG, with regional groups in Africa/Europe, the Americas and the Asia-Pacific.
INSARAG coordinates all international urban search and rescue activities involving collapsed structures, leading to more coherent international search and rescue capacity worldwide. FCSS also acts as Secretariat for the International Humanitarian Partnership, the Asia-Pacific Humanitarian Partnership and the Americas Support Module, which provide technical and logistical support for humanitarian missions.

FCSS enables OCHA to respond quickly and effectively to sudden-onset disasters by managing the following tools and

    1. the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) system of international emergency
      management experts, with regional teams in Africa/ Europe, Latin America/Caribbean and the Asia-Pacific
      able to deploy within 12–48 hours of a sudden-onset disaster to assist governments, RCs and country teams in
      coordinating the international humanitarian response
    2. the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS) which provides near real-time alerts on natural disasters worldwide and integrates international online disaster information management systems under one umbrella; and
    3. the Virtual On-Site Operations Coordination Centre (VOSOCC) which allows for real-time information exchange among emergency managers worldwide.


FCSS works closely with OCHA’s Regional Disaster Response Advisers, its regional and field offices, government
authorities, United Nations Agencies, the International Organization for Migration, international and regional
organizations as well as non-governmental partners involved in disaster preparedness and response.

FCSS’s key challenges in 2008:

    1. To maintain the UNDAC system as a primary tool for disaster response coordination, with particular emphasis
      on capacity building in disaster-prone countries. This will involve: raising awareness of the UNDAC system,
      particularly in disaster-prone regions; maintaining close cooperation with the technical partners which support UNDAC in humanitarian response activities; and improving the quality of UNDAC teams through specialized regional training of emergency managers in common UNDAC methodology, conveying the latest developments in international humanitarian response coordination, and promoting sharing of knowledge and experience.
    2. To continue development of the INSARAG network and foster common standards for international urban search
      and rescue activities. FCSS will organize international meetings, exercises, classification and training activities
      among the three regional groups in order to build awareness and promote adoption of the INSARAG guidelines, support practical exercises, share lessons learned and adapt appropriate methodologies.

Key Objectives, Outputs and Indicators

Greater incorporation of disaster risk reduction approaches and strengthened preparedness in humanitarian response
Outputs Indicators
UNDAC /INSARA G familiarization modules organized to spread knowledge of international response in sudden-onset disasters. UNDAC response preparedness missions provided in response to requests from countries or the United Nations. International urban search and rescue teams operationally classified according to response capacity. Disaster risk reduction and preparedness methodology incorporated into UNDAC training. Number of countries and organizations participating in modules. Number of UNDAC response preparedness missions. Number of international teams classified. Number of UNDAC courses incorporating disaster risk reduction and preparedness methodology.

Improved coordination structures at country, regional and international levels
Outputs Indicators
Regional disaster preparedness, response and coordination promoted through FCS activities and networks. Number of countries participating in INSARAG and UNDAC events.

Strengthened OCHA emergency response capacity
Outputs Indicators
Humanitarian reform better integrated into UNDAC methodology. Increased number of UNDAC members fully aware of the implications of key components of humanitarian reform on the UNDAC methodology.

Strengthened information management based on common standards and best practices
Outputs Indicators
GDACS and VOSOCC maintained for use by disaster responders. Number and usefulness of information updates and exchanges placed on VOSOCC.

Surge Capacity Section

The Surge Capacity Section (SCS) is responsible for the timely deployment of humanitarian professionals during the initial phase of emergencies and disasters in support of United Nations RCs/HCs, United Nations or IASC Country Teams and OCHA offices.

In recent years, OCHA has established a network of field offices, but this still leaves the vast majority of countries uncovered and the organization is frequently called upon to provide in-country coordination services in the wake of sudden-onset natural disasters. In line with the growing complexity of international humanitarian action, the expectations stakeholders hold about what OCHA personnel should be able to deliver within the sectors of humanitarian coordination are greater than ever, particularly taking into account the humanitarian reform agenda. It is essential for OCHA to have the right people in the right location within very tight timeframes, and surge capacity human resources play a pivotal role in the transition following the departure of UNDAC teams, the initiation of urgently needed field coordination services or the augmenting of existing OCHA presences.

Two main elements of the Section’s service portfolio are:

    1. Standby Partnerships Programme: through which OCHA has agreements with nine partner agencies (Norwegian
      Refugee Council, Danish Refugee Council, Swedish International Development Agency, Swedish Rescue Services Agency, the UK Department for International Development, Austcare, RedR Australia, Irish Aid and Canadem) to provide experts to bolster OCHA operations in the field; and
    2. Emergency Response Roster: a new internal roster for emergency deployments which will comprise up to 14 preselected, versatile OCHA staff from field and headquarters at various levels (roster members will be deployable at short notice to any location in the world to initiate or bolster OCHA coordination services for a period of limited duration).

As part of OCHA’s overall organizational strengthening, the Section has shifted towards the management of the Standby Partnerships Programme, the Emergency Response Roster and other OCHA in-house surge capacity resources as well as external emergency personnel services. SCS staff may, under certain circumstances, still deploy themselves, but this will increasingly be done in situations where other surge personnel have been deployed and where useful work can be undertaken in assessing the effectiveness of surge capacity and formulating lessons learned – feeding back into emergency response training in which SCS is involved.

In recognition of the fact that OCHA requires a ‘clearing house’ where short- and mid-term staffing needs are matched with available human resources through SCS as well as other specialized sections within OCHA, in 2008 the Section will play an greater role in the centralized management of emergency staff surge deployments.

Key Objectives, Outputs and Indicators

Improved coordination structures at country, regional and international levels
Outputs Indicators
Emergency deployments of coordination personnel to initiate or bolster in-country coordination structures facilitated. Time taken to respond to relevant requests for surge capacity. Percentage of subsequent deployments occurring within requested timeframe (taking into account relevant procedures).

Strengthened OCHA emergency response capacity
Outputs Indicators
Emergency Response Roster implemented. Development of and knowledge about the profession of surge capacity providers enhanced. Emergency Response Roster used in all relevant situations or considered as a potential source of versatile OCHA emergency coordination personnel. Roster and standby partner personnel trained and prepared for challenging field assignments, using lessons learned and consolidated in-house knowledge and expertise.

Improved management practices for ‘one OCHA’
Outputs Indicators
Internal clarity on available emergency/surge personnel resources improved. Formulation and dissemination of internal guidelines or user’s guide. Proper use of guidelines.

Logistics Support Unit

The Logistics Support Unit (LSU) contributes to inter-agency discussions relating to non-military logistical aspects of emergency relief, and interacts closely with the logistics cluster and the United Nations Joint Logistics Centre. It provides logistical support to OCHA, particularly on transport issues, and acts as OCHA’s focal point for suppliers.

The Unit is responsible for coordinating the timely mobilization and delivery of emergency relief goods, mainly through the management and immediate dispatch of stocks of basic non-food, non-medical relief items held at the United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot (UNHRD) in Brindisi, Italy. These stocks comprise essential relief items needed in most emergency situations.

LSU’s key challenge in 2008 will be to cooperate with OCHA’s partners on common inter-agency projects in the area of
logistics, in particular in relation to the effort to develop standard shelter guidelines. It will also: monitor logistics issues (such as potential bottlenecks) during major disasters or emergencies; manage and replenish the OCHA stockpile of basic relief items in the UNHRD; and provide assistance to interested governments in the dispatch of appropriate items
to disaster-affected countries in a timely manner. LSU is involved in the establishment of an equipment reserve to strengthen OCHA’s response to crises and disasters, as well as in a number of internal logistics issues.

Key Objectives, Outputs and Indicators

Improved coordination structures at country, regional and international levels
Outputs Indicators
UNHRD stockpile, stockpile register, customs facilitation and DH L airport teams within the logistics and emergency shelter clusters streamlined. Awareness raised of these mechanisms and their added value for the logistics and emergency shelter clusters. Progress in objectives of logistics cluster. Emergency shelter cluster meetings attended.

Strengthened OCHA emergency response capacity
Outputs Indicators
Interaction with relief providers in the areas of logistics information and provision strengthened. OCHA ’s equipment capacity in response to emergencies strengthened by establishing a plan to mobilize a range of
equipment. Agreements with partners reached for the lease of a number of assets. Revolving equipment reserve established.
Number of ‘model agreements’ signed with interested governments. Number of logistics bottleneck reports issued during major emergencies. Level of OCHA stocks in UNHRD maintained at established standard levels.
Percentage of requests for support during disasters followed up. Standard operation procedures for deployment and management of equipment finalized and disseminated. Equipment reserve pre-positioned.

More strategic advocacy of humanitarian principles and issues
Outputs Indicators
Common guidelines for emergency shelter assistance developed. Progress achieved in the revision of the Shelter after Disaster Guidelines.