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close this bookEmergency Information Management and Telecommunications - 1st Edition (Department of Humanitarian Affairs/United Nations Disaster Relief Office - Disaster Management Training Programme - United Nations Development Programme , 1997, 62 p.)
close this folderPart 1: Information management systems
close this folderIdentification of information needs
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentInformation needs: “pre-crisis”
View the documentInformation needs: “with onset of crisis”
View the documentInformation needs: “post-crisis”

Information needs: “with onset of crisis”

Information needs for operations planning: With the onset of an actual emergency, just as the various contingency scenarios anticipated by managers are reduced to one actuality, the information needs of the various respondents seem to increase exponentially. In preparing operations plans to deal with this new reality, emergency managers must strive to add specificity to the planned response in terms of composition (demographics), needs, and numbers of affected, locations, targets, and resources.5

5 Ideally, the actual type of intervention has been anticipated in the contingency plans; if not, then decisions concerning the type of response must, as well, be prepared as part of the operations plan.


The International Organization for Migration notes ten essential steps of Operations Plan development.6 The following table lists these steps and suggests the type of information needed by emergency managers to complete each step:

Steps in operations planning

Information needed to complete step

1. Prioritize needs.

· Results of assessment of Immediate and longer-term needs of affected population
· Clearly-defined organizational mission/mandate

2. Assess material and financial resources as well as local capabilities and limitations.

· Inventory of existing and expected response resources (cash, in-kind, human) of all organizations
· Assessment results of status of coping mechanisms, of degree of social disruption of affected population

3. Identify the operation’s goals, what and how much assistance is required, and potential cost.

· Organization’s mission/strategic plans
· Listing of needed inputs
· Prevailing and expected prices of inputs

4. Define a set of realistic objectives, the accomplishment of which will ensure that the goals can be met.

· Results of damage assessments (health & medical facilities; agricultural land; industrial & commercial facilities; transportation networks; telecommunications systems, etc.)
· Location of affected population
· Precise number of target group
· Expected duration of disaster/emergency

5. Generate a range of alternative methods and tasks to accomplish the objectives.

· Available and expected staff and expertise from own and partner organizations

6. Choose the most effective and efficient methods and tasks.

· Amount of time available for response
· Costs of inputs
· Proximity of respondents to affected area
· Skill areas and levels of available staff

7. Identify who is responsible for implementing chosen methods and tasks.

· Proximity of respondents to affected area

8. Devise means to monitor and evaluate plan implementation.

· Availability of staff/expertise and transport

9. Establish procedures to adjust Plan of Action.

· Agreed measures of success or failure
· Likely constraints to prepared Operations Plan

10. Identify government liaison and secure government approval to proceed.

· Government organizational structure
· Government clearance procedures

6 “Emergency Migration Management” training module for the Migration Management Training Program, International Organization for Migration, 1994.

At this point, where emergency conditions prevail, an effective information system shows great flexibility in responding to the changing needs of its users. Information gathered by assessment, monitoring, and (on occasion) ongoing evaluation teams is fed into the system and analyzed with the aim of identifying needed changes in the response. Ideally, the system provides decision makers with a clear understanding of whether or not planned objectives are being met and, even more importantly, whether these objectives are still the essential ones.

Ideally, the system provides a clear understanding of whether planned objectives are being met and whether these objectives are still the essential ones.


Refugee emergency in Zenon: The director of the Zenon Emergency Preparedness Committee (EPC) receives a call from the Prime Minister who asks him to convene an emergency meeting. The Ministry of Interior is receiving reports from its border posts of a major influx of Nortenian refugees fleeing south into the northern, mountainous zone of Zenon. Early estimates range in the tens of thousands of refugees who are encamped just inside the border, about 100 kms from the regional capital of Montano.

The EPC director immediately summons the twelve members of the EPC to a meeting at the Prime Minister’s office. Only half show up. The Secretary-General of the Zenon Red Cross reports that apart from a volunteer coordinator and several hundred volunteers, the Red Cross has little presence in Montano. “Maybe three, four hundred tents, as many blankets.” He shakes his head. “We moved almost everything to Port Sound during the last hurricane.”

The Minister of Agriculture and Environment notes that the area where the refugees are believed to be has been heavily deforested in recent years. “With the rains about to begin there,” he says, “Mudslides are a real possibility.”

The Minister of Interior notes he has received reports of continuing violence in southern Nortenia. He suspects that a number of armed members of the South Nortenia Liberation Army have fled into Zenon along with the refugee population.

The Prime Minister stands. “Excuse me, but I have a meeting with a visiting donor delegation.” He looks at the EPC director. “Please have your recommendations for action on my desk in one hour.”

Q. You are the EPC director. What issues or problems concerning information needs do you face at this stage? What steps will you take to deal with these issues or problems?