Disaster response

Actions taken once a disaster is imminent or actualized in order to save lives, reduce health impacts, ensure public safety and meet the basic subsistence needs of the people affected. These normally include a strategic perspective on cascading impacts of the event, new/emerging risk conditions as well as needs for rehabilitation, reconstruction, recovery, and resilience building after the disaster event.


1. Effective and efficient response is dependent on availability of resilient infrastructure for search and rescue, evacuation, provisioning of basic services and distribution of food and water. The institutional elements of response include the provision of emergency services and public assistance by public and private and community sectors, as well as community and volunteer participation. “Emergency services” are a critical set of specialized agencies that have specific responsibilities in serving and protecting people and property in emergency and disaster situations. They include civil protection authorities and police and fire services, among many others.

2. Disaster response is predominantly focused on immediate and short-term needs but must also consider long-term sustainability goals. It can be organized, or emergent and spontaneous on the part of those affected. It should consider local priorities and existing capacities and it should be informed by cultural values and include the conservation of assets such as cultural heritage.

3. The effectiveness of response in relation to infrastructure is seen in immediate post-impact analysis of the security of damaged infrastructure, controls over use of such infrastructure and immediate activation of alternative service provision.

4. Effective, efficient, and timely response relies on disaster preparedness measures, including the development of the capacities of individuals, communities, organizations, countries, and the international community. See also “Disaster preparedness”.

5. The division between the response stage and the subsequent recovery stage is not clear-cut. The adequacy and efficiency of response will influence more permanent recovery and reconstruction processes. Some response actions, such as the emergency provision of housing, electricity, and water, may extend well into the recovery stage. Although only designed for temporary use, these provisions may become permanent for various reasons.


Modified from UNDRR Sendai Framework Terminology on Disaster Risk Reduction (2023)



Gujarat Earthquake Reconstruction Programme, 2001

One of the worst disasters to strike Gujarat, India was the Kutch earthquake of 26 January 2001. Its magnitude, intensity and geographic spread posed massive challenges in rescue, relief, and rehabilitation. The Gujarat Earthquake Reconstruction Programme was designed to comprehensively address the needs of the affected population. It involved the community and encompassed several sectors such as housing, physical infrastructure, social infrastructure, urban reconstruction, livelihood restoration, social rehabilitation, and long-term disaster risk reduction. It adopted the “building back better” approach.

The short-term focus of the reconstruction programme was on immediate needs. This included construction of temporary shelters, debris removal, repair of houses and public buildings and emergency repair of irrigation structures. The medium-term focus of the programme included repair and reconstruction of houses, public infrastructure, and social infrastructure, and initiating efforts towards disaster mitigation and reduction. The long-term focus of the programme was on further strengthening the capacity of government institutions and the community towards disaster risk reduction and implementation of risk transfer mechanisms.


Source: UNDP. (2012, March). Disaster Management in India: United Nations Development Programme. UNDP India. Retrieved on December 12, 2022.