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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 folderData gathering and emergency management
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentEstablishing the baseline
View the documentQuantitative vs. qualitative methods of data gathering
View the documentThe need for an “inter-agency” approach
View the documentHardware and software tools for data-gathering


Data-gathering is a continuous emergency management function; it is conducted before (warning), during (assessment and monitoring) and after (evaluation) the emergency operation to ensure that decision makers can stay abreast of changing conditions. There is a wide range of data-gathering techniques available to emergency managers, from highly sophisticated satellite and remote sensing systems to one-on-one interviews with key informants, including, among others, authorities, other emergency response agencies, and members of affected populations. Decisions concerning the particular techniques to be used in gathering data depend primarily upon availability of financial resources, expertise, and time. Decisions about the frequency of data gathering also depend upon these factors, although, ideally, “the frequency of data collection and reporting must match the rate of change in the situation being assessed.”7

7 “Disaster Assessment”, DMTP Module, page 7.

Without a carefully planned, well-organized approach to data-gathering, the information flow in an emergency can slow to a trickle with decision makers forced to take actions based on minimal information. In other situations, the flow swells to a deluge as response organizations, media, and other stakeholders generate volumes of data, drowning decision makers in statistics and reports. What is too often lacking, however, is that essential key information that can facilitate decision-making. The answer is in preparedness and planning: ie, the application of good management principles to a need.

Data-gathering is a continuous emergency management function.

No matter how sophisticated or simple the technique employed in data-gathering, a number of management issues and tasks should be addressed by all emergency managers. The following table identifies some of these issues and tasks, organized by general management function:

Management function

Issues and tasks for managers in data-gathering


· Selection of techniques appropriate to gather data to meet end-user needs
· Determination of needed expertise, skill levels
· Setup of an inter-agency approach for particular hazards and regions
· Budgeting of data-gathering resources: expertise, transport, data-gathering equipment, supplies to ensure continuity of data-gathering system


· Procurement of needed material resources for data-gathering
· Hiring of needed expertise
· Scheduling of data-gathering visits, of use of equipment (eg, satellite time or vehicles)
· Assembly and training of data-gathering teams in collection techniques
· Defining limits of data sample (area or population)


· Ensuring correct application of planned techniques and respect for limits set on population sample
· Reconciling actual vs. planned budgets for data-gathering


· Convincing donors of the value of the data-gathering activity
· Persuading affected population of importance of data-gathering
· Obtaining access and needed clearances from restrictive authorities or other factions

The remainder of this section details a number of other data-gathering issues of concern to emergency managers.