What is Disaster Response?

Josie Myers

Disaster response is the reaction and activity involved in helping people who have involved in some kind of catastrophe. The first step in an overall disaster management plan is usually focused on disaster avoidance, and the creation of an action plan that details the necessary response if one occurs. Once an incident has taken place, these plans for response and recovery are then set into motion, to best remedy the situation.

Handing out canned goods and other supplies is an important part of disaster response.
Handing out canned goods and other supplies is an important part of disaster response.

Disaster management is a multi-level plan of attack for handling catastrophic incidents. Federal, state, and local authorities are typically each assigned tasks to help avoid disasters, if possible, and with practical plans that are appropriate to their size and resources. The overall goal is to reduce the chances of an incident occurring due to human error, and to plan for the worst-case scenario should an unavoidable incident happen.

Disaster response teams may help evacuate people in the event of severe flooding.
Disaster response teams may help evacuate people in the event of severe flooding.

During the planning phase, resources are prepared and put into place in case a disaster occurs. Evacuation plans must be created and regularly updated, and facilities that can serve as housing for displaced citizens must be found and readied. Emergency packs that include food, medicine, and basic necessities are often created as another preparedness measure. Some of these basic services are provided by organizations like the Red Cross. The well-defined role of public service groups, like fire and police departments, is an integral part of this plan as well.

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Food, medicine, and basic supplies are offered by the Red Cross after a disaster.
Food, medicine, and basic supplies are offered by the Red Cross after a disaster.

Disaster response takes the action plan and puts it into motion when necessary. According to it and in a disaster situation, emergency personnel are ready to be deployed for search and rescue missions. Citizens may be advised to either evacuate or seek shelter. In the case of evacuation, transportation is typically pre-arranged to quickly and safely remove citizens from the affected area. Also, supplies can be brought in by humanitarian groups or emergency management authorities to aid those impacted by the incident.

Disaster response involves the activity associated with helping people who have been involved in a disaster.
Disaster response involves the activity associated with helping people who have been involved in a disaster.

Once the response has begun and is running effectively, management begins to execute the recovery stage of response. During this phase, the condition of the area hit by the disaster is usually assessed, and a plan for the future is formulated. This can be as simple as returning people to their homes, or as complicated as setting up temporary, long-term housing and providing necessities for those affected. This phase can also include plans that outline the repair of damaged areas, and the restoration of living conditions. Prevention of future, similar incidents is usually discussed, and a new planning phase can begin.

Disaster response includes distributing bottles in area where clean drinking water is not available.
Disaster response includes distributing bottles in area where clean drinking water is not available.

The effectiveness of disaster response depends largely on the quality and thoroughness of the original disaster plan. Authorities who have effectively discussed and reviewed their plan of action are more likely to be successful in facilitating the disaster response. People who are familiar with their local plan, or who develop a plan for their home and family, will be better equipped to handle their own personal disaster response.

Disaster response teams might be sent to an area hit by an earthquake.
Disaster response teams might be sent to an area hit by an earthquake.
Disaster response teams provide first aid until paramedics arrive.
Disaster response teams provide first aid until paramedics arrive.

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