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close this bookTrainee's Manual on Disaster Preparedness (European Commission Humanitarian Office, 59 p.)
close this folderModule IV. Emergency Services & Responses
View the documentSession III. COMMUNICATION & WARNING
View the documentSession VI. SEARCH & RESCUE


A. Procedures in the Activation of the DOC

B. Stages of Response

Emergency management in the response phase is concerned with implementing measures that will save lives, reduce injury and distress, and establish a control structure for rehabilitation of the community.

The true test of a Disaster Response Plan is how the community copes with the disaster and how the local Disaster Coordinating Council organization provides for the safety and well-being of individual citizen upon receiving official notification of the disaster threat until the emergency period is over.

Disaster researches generally accept that there are stages of response to a disaster: warning, threat, incident, assessment, rescue, and relief. While the stages will not all be distinct, and in some disasters, some of the stages will not occur, they provide a logical base for discussion.

1. The Warning Stage

At the local level, warning messages may be initiated by local warning agencies, police authorities, catchment authorities for small water impounding areas or canals, or other authorized agencies communicating directly with the local government authority. Warning messages at the national level emanate from warning agencies such as PAGASA for impending typhoons and other weather disturbances; PHIVOLCS for earthquake, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis; DOH for epidemics; DENR for environmental pollution; PNRI for radiological emergencies; AFP for external threats; and, PNP for civil disturbance.

It is at the warning stage when the Disaster Operations Center for the more likely affected localities are activated. Key DCC staff members are on stand-by for possible response activities and the DCC communications and warning system are tested.

2. The Threat Stage

The threat stage begins with changes in conditions which indicate the likelihood of a disaster. Although the scope of the possible impact is unknown, previous knowledge or historical records may provide a reasonable likelihood.

Success of the disaster response measure to be implemented will rely heavily on the efforts previously put in during the mitigation and preparedness phase. The threat stage of the response entails full involvement of the Chairman, DCC or key staff.

Some of the actions that might be initiated are:

a. Convene the disaster action group or DCC members;

b. Request situation reports from emergency service or agencies already involved e.g. regional council or lower council;

c. Liaison with chairman of local DCC of threatened areas;

d. Declare state of civil defense emergency;

e. Activate all civil defense operation center/different DCCs;

f. Activate appropriate government and other agencies;

g. Issue information to media;

h. Issue warnings to public;

i. Send situation reports to supporting agencies/chairman, DCC’s and OP;

j. Activate resource plan; and,

k. Evacuate critical areas.

3. The Incident Stage

The incident stage may consist of a single event of limited duration such as an explosion, building collapse, flash flood or transport accident, or may be multiple, extending over a period of time, such as a series of earthquakes. The nature of the incident will greatly affect the disaster organization’s ability to carry out life-saving measures and to establish control in the disaster area.

Individuals in the community must be forewarned that there will be a period during which they will have to fend for themselves. With the best will in the world, it is unlikely that the emergency services or the DCC’s organization will be able to help everyone. If, during the preparedness phase, the emphasis in public education programs has been on teaching survival, the community will be better able to survive.

4. The Assessment Stage

This is a period of adjustment and taking stock after the disaster. Individuals and organizations in the disaster area attempt to evaluate the event and determine what to do next.

Problems in making accurate assessment will be compounded by the disruption to normal communications. The collection and passage of information will have to operate through one or both of the following:

a. Planned Flow - where information is relayed between civil defense control points: headquarters, sector posts, welfare centers and local DCC units.

b. Contingency Reconnaissance by the use of resources from the local government and voluntary agencies to establish mobile information-gathering teams.

Outside the disaster area, Civil Defense/DCC authorities at the province/region/national levels will begin to receive information on the disaster from a variety of sources and will be making assessments on what resources are needed. The passing of information in the first few hours after a disaster is critical and controllers must recognize that they have a prime responsibility to keep the DCC Chairman fully informed.

Where communication difficulties prevent the flow of information to higher headquarters, it is the responsibility of the NDCC at the higher headquarters to assist by establishing additional links with the disaster-stricken areas. For example, the NDCC Chairman may do this by sending support teams to the region. Regional DCC’s should adopt the same approach to help a distressed province or town within their areas of responsibility.

5. The Rescue Stage

This period is characterized by self-help and by largely spontaneous, unrecognized activity to extricate survivors and to take precautionary and survival actions against secondary threats.

The initial rescue stage is characterized by:

a. individual actions by people acting within their own immediate surroundings with little knowledge of what has happened;

b. a sense of urgency on the part of surviving authorities to complete the rescue task. Such haste can lead to uncoordinated and disjoint actions;

c. the problem of tourists and visitors in the community at the time of the disaster. Information on the numbers of such people is rarely available or easily obtained.

Later in the rescue stage, the efforts of individuals will be supplemented by surviving emergency service and rescue elements from areas outside the immediate disaster area. Measures to control and coordinate rescue manpower and equipment must be implemented to ensure the best use of resources.

6. The Relief Stage

The period in which agencies and trained personnel acting on the DCC chairman’s instructions move into the incident area and take charge. The activities undertaken by these elements can include:

a. establishment of appropriate medical aid, clothing and accommodation facilities;

b. provision of registration and local inquiry services;

c. more detailed search and rescue operations;

d. preventive action to reduce likelihood of further danger such as evacuation and emergency repairs of damaged vital infrastructure.

Many of the activities in the relief stage depend upon the restoration of selected essential community service. The controller will need to establish priorities in keeping with demands for recovery.

The relief stage may also be characterized by friction between the locals and outsiders coming in to assist. This can never be completely avoided, but the effect can be reduced markedly by establishing:

a. roles for all agencies, thus increasing the speed and effectiveness of response and reducing duplication;

b. mobile resources, i.e. identifying groupings and preparing resources for rapid deployment in specific situations;

c. a control structures that will coordinate the activities of all organization and agencies in the disaster area; and,

d. a clearly defined reporting area for unsolicited volunteers and a system for managing volunteer workers.


No disaster ever occurs quite as predicted or expected, and no disaster is exactly like any other. All stages of the response will produce challenges for the Chairman, DCC or disaster action officer. His/Her ability to manage the response will be greatly influenced by the measures already taken in the mitigation and preparation phases.

C. Levels of Activation

Circumstances at the time will help the DCC Chairman to determine the extent to which the DOC is staffed and made ready to carry out its operational functions. Three classifications can be used to define the DOC operational status:

1. ALERT - The Disaster Operations Center is manned by a Civil Defense Officer with Key DCC staff members. Other DCC staff and operating teams and volunteers are notified of the situation but are not yet required to report to the center.

2. STAND-BY - The Disaster Operations Center is manned by a Civil Defense Officer, key DCC staff members, and operating teams such as rescue, relief, communications and public information.

3. ACTION - All DCC members are required to report at the DOC.

D. Operationalization

Follow a sequence of steps to make the DOC fully operational. There may be some variation because of the type of threat, but the basic sequence will not change. Standard operating procedures (SOPs) should be developed for the activation. The following should also be considered:

1. Alert the DOC Personnel

The alerting process should be clearly stated in the DCC plan as an SOP. It may be a chain of calls where one person calls another on the activation roster. Alternate names should be included to make sure that the DOC is fully staffed.

2. Activate the Communications Equipment/Support Facilities

Unless the DOC is used on a daily basis, communications equipment will have to be switched on and tested. Activating the support system may mean anything from starting an emergency power generator to plugging in the coffee pot.

3. Initiate the Message Flow System

The message flow system is simply a method of recording messages as they arrive so they are documented and action can be taken. Usually, incoming messages will be routed through the Operations Officer, who will assign the responsibility to act on the message to someone within the DOC.

4. Make Available the Appropriate Logs, Maps and Status Board

It is vital that an operational log of events is maintained. Maps of the local community and surrounding areas and other resources should be in place before the emergency.

5. Prepare a Shift Roster

If the DOC is to operate for any length of time, you must have roster personnel so that they are not on duty continuously. Duty time, off duty, and relief breaks must be scheduled. It is particularly important to ensure that the alternate Disaster Action Officer rests and is available to relieve you in due course.

6. Announce Briefing Schedules

It is important to set up a briefing schedule as soon as the DOC is operating. You should brief the DOC every shift change, and at times of major decisions or events. The media also needs a briefing schedule so they know when to expect a report from the DOC.

7. Announce Briefing Schedules

It is important to set up a briefing schedule as soon as the DOC is operating. You should brief staff the DOC when shifts change and at times of major decisions or events. The news media also need a briefing schedule so they know when to expect a report from the DOC.

You should not undertake all the above tasks. SOPs should detail tasks and responsibilities to be carried out by key members of the DOC staff. You need to confirm that such tasks have been completed.

E. Key Personnel & Functions