Cover Image
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

Establishing the baseline

The establishment of solid baseline data concerning a hazard-prone area is one of the most important - and most neglected! - functions of emergency information management. Effective emergency decision-making requires the comparison of newly gathered data against a baseline which represents the pre-disaster or “normal” situation. For example, it is not sufficient in terms of understanding the economic effects of a severe drought for an emergency manager to learn the price of cattle in the market today. For such information to be useful, the manager must know if the price of cattle is falling at an unusually rapid rate, and to know this, baseline data on the price of cattle sales for this time of year and for the particular market location are essential.

Effective emergency decision-making requires the comparison of newly gathered data against a baseline which represents the pre-disaster or “normal” situation.

A key managerial concern in establishing a baseline is the issue of maintenance. Too often, because of resource limitations, baseline data are collected as a one-time “snapshot” of the hazard-prone area. What is actually needed, however, is a commitment to update these baseline data on a regular basis. In this way longitudinal studies can produce “rolling averages” of statistically vital data and assist decision makers to understand the actual scope of the changes brought about by the disaster. Managers must ensure that those responsible for establishing and maintaining the baseline return again and again to their sources to note any changes. These potential sources of critical emergency baseline data include the following:

Category of data

Potential sources

Demographics: composition, location, socio-economic data

· National or regional census records
· Local town, village records or authorities

Normally endemic diseases, prevailing morbidity and mortality rates

· Ministries of health, state office of statistics records
· Town, district office records
· Hospital or clinic records on admittance
· Local doctors, public health officials

Nutritional Status (prevailing malnutrition rates, food habits, normal nutritional deficiencies)

· Ministry of Health, university nutritional surveys
· UNICEF, NGO nutritional surveillance programs
· Local NGO feeding programs

Water sources, status, distribution systems

· Ministries of water, regional hydrological offices
· City planning offices, treatment plants
· UNICEF, NGOs active in water resource development

Weather, rainfall patterns

· National meteorological offices
· Local farmers

Transportation routes, systems

· Ministries of transport
· Commercial transporters

Q. Consider a type of hazard to which your organization is likely to respond. Identify ten categories of baseline information which would be needed by managers to design a response. Then list specific sources in your country for each category of information.

A. Type of hazard ___________________________________________

Information category

Source of baseline data







1. soil type on slopes - Ministry of agriculture or Ministry of soil and water
2. Urban population density - National census records
3. Urban water - Ministry of water, city planning office, etc. sources