2. Basic Guide

This guide starts when a real emergency is on its way. You should already be well prepared for possible emergencies; refer to the EPP guidelines and the CARE International minimum standards for preparedness to support your preparedness work.

You should know CARE’s humanitarian mandate and emergency management protocols.

Your CO should have:

  • an ERT whose members all know what they have to do in an emergency
  • an up-to-date capacity assessment
  • emergency plans that include partners and stakeholders
  • Gender in brief
  • emergency procedures for safety and security, finance, HR, procurement and logistics.

See Chapter 37 Emergency-preparedness-planning for details.

If you are not fully prepared, don’t waste time worrying. This guide will help you respond as quickly as you can.

You will need help from your Lead Member, CARE Humanitarian Affairs, and other parts of CARE.

See Annex 2.1 CO rapid capacity assessment questionnaire

As soon as you know an emergency is coming:

  • send an emergency alert: the alert should explain the situation, impact, and CARE’s ability or plans to respond.
  • start doing all the things listed at section 3
  • get all the news you can — watch closely for emergency alerts, early warnings, weather reports, political changes, etc.
  • do anything you can do to limit the damage from the emergency.
  • start getting people ready to act and supplies ready to send as soon as possible.

Who does what? 

The following actions are done by a team at CO level. Make sure you decide how to share these tasks. Don't overload one person! Things only the CD can do are noted below. The CD, ACD's and the emergency coordinator work together to manage the response and lead the emergency response team to make sure everything gets done.


  • Make sure all CARE staff are safe.
  • Start using the instructions in the emergency management protocols
  • Send an emergency alert (if not already sent). CARE Humanitarian Affairs will then contact you.
  • Call an ERT meeting to make plans and decide who will do what.
  • Set up an operations room for the Emergency Response Team
  • Refer to your Emergency Preparedness Plan
  • Start coordinating with disaster-affected communities, local authorities, the UN, humanitarian clusters and NGOs.
  • Make sure the Country Directortalks to their CO line manager; the Lead Member Emergency Director; CARE Humanitarian Affairs; the Regional Humanitarian Director.
  • Keep finding out as much as you can about the emergency and any responses.
  • Find your Gender in Brief and share with CARE Humanitarian Affairs as soon as possible.


  • The Country Directortakes part in a Crisis Coordination and Action (CCA) meeting (conference call) to make the first key decisions about the response. This call has a fixed agenda set out in Protocol C5
  • Activate and follow your CO emergency policies and procedures.

In the field

  • Send  an assessment team into the field ASAP. The team should be gender balanced and preferably have language skills and cultural knowledge of the communities most affected by the emergency. Work with other humanitarian agencies in a joint assessment where possible.  Ensure that the assessment forms and questions are gender smart and information collected is SADD.
  • Make sure CARE teams can communicate safely and reliably (by phone, radio, satellite phone, internet).
  • Distribute vital relief supplies as soon as you can (see Sphere standards). Don’t wait for the finished assessment before helping to save lives.


  • Request funds from the CI Humanitarian Surge Fund  if needed.
  • Contact donors and submit initial concept papers or funding proposals.
  • Your Gender in Brief is key to attach to initial concepts and to share with donors.
  • Use the  CO capacity assessment to decide what extra help to request from CI.
  • Ask the CI HR Coordinator for any extra staff you need. Key positions may be: emergency coordinator, information manager, media officer, proposal writer, finance officer, HR officer, logistician, M&E officer, safety and security officer, sector specialists.

Media / Advocacy

  • Decide who will be the media contact/spokesperson for interviews and dealing with other CI media officers.
  • Send photos and information to CI for media releases and stories.
  • Suggest what to say about any complex advocacy issues.


  • Put information management systems in place to make sure all staff share information with each other.
  • Send regular sitreps. You may need to do this daily if things are changing quickly.  Keep the sitreps short, focus on new information.  Attach OCHA sitreps no need to add the details.
  • Contact CARE Humanitarian Affairs for advice and guidance on information management.

See Annex 2.6 Emergency sitrep form


  • Develop the first response strategy ASAP – review what you put in the EPP. Consider CARE’s key sectors and capacities and expertise, and the CO and partners’ strengths and capacities. Look at how we fit in with the work of other humanitarian agencies and what value we can add to the overall response.   Keep focused to ease management, operations and funding.
  • Use this strategy to write a generic proposal to discuss with donors – remember to highlight our gender in emergencies approach.  The Gender in Brief can greatly support initial proposals and we should plan a rapid gender assessment ASAP.
  • Assess possible risks from CARE’s response and how to deal with them. This includes effects on your normal programmes.

See Annex 2.7 Emergency response strategy format

It could now be time to quickly increase the CO’s capacity and scale up the response. A CO’s operations can become 10 times bigger in the first weeks of an emergency depending on the size and speed of the emergency.


  • Check that the response complies with CARE’s Humanitarian Accountability Framework and the CHS
  • Pay close attention to communication with beneficiaries. Seek their views in the first place, share our plans with them in return and accept their feedback.
  • Check that the response complies with the conflict sensitivity checklist for rapid onset emergencies.

Humanitarian policy

Programme response

  • Examine the main needs and any gaps in the response so far. Look at:
    • how you are responding in CARE’s key sectors (food security, shelter, WASH, SRH)
    • what sectors you should focus on (assessment needs, partner capacity, CARE capacity, EPP)
    • how to build on current CO expertise
    • how you are coordinating with clusters.
  • Consider cross-cutting issues, especially:
  • Work out what extra funds and technical expertise you need.
  • What are the key advocacy issues?
  • Update the emergency strategy based on the latest assessments.
  • Start planning for the change from emergency response to long-term recovery.

Scaling up capacity

see also ‘Tips for scaling up’ at section 7.

  • Fundraise from donor groups, the UN and the public.
  • Have proposal writers in the CO so that you can get proposals reflecting the real situation on the ground to donors as soon as possible.
  • Set up a system for managing contracts. Each large contract will need their own project manager – also key to have a point person for each contract..
  • Ensure to consider how to best ensure geography and or sectors are shared among donors to make management oversight of each contract as efficient as possible.
  • Build good relationships with partners. This includes supporting their capacity and designing approaches and proposals with them.   Ensure they are aware of CARE’s gender in emergency approach.
  • Start M&E as soon as possible-recording numbers of beneficiaries (broken down by sex and age), amounts distributed etc.
  • Plan and budget for an after action review to be done three months after the emergency. For a type 2 or 4 emergency you will need an independent evaluation (ie from outside CARE) as well as an AAR.
  • Plan ahead for scaling down and closing the response or moving to longer-term development programming.

Scaling up support

Scale up all CO operational capacity at the same time as programme expansion. To avoid delays, you will need more staff and faster/better systems for:


  • Hiring new staff
  • Orientation of new staff
  • PSEA training.
  • Internal TDYs to support emergency programming
  • Working with CARE Humanitarian Affairs and your Lead Member on international deployments (and remember to start planning for the second wave as early as possible).


  • allocating and tracking emergency funds/contracts
  • budgets preparation and reporting
  • donor and audit rules
  • master budget


  • storage, inventory and transport
  • CIKS (if applicable)



  • purchasing relief supplies and equipment
  • donor rules
  • customs


  • travel and transport
  • government regulations
  • office services
  • Support for new staff / accommodation, pickup etc.


  • phone, radio, satellite and internet

Safety and security.

  • Ensure protocols are in place, update as required depending on changed situation.


Communication can be confusing, as many different parts of CARE will give support and need information. Make sure you know who you need to communicate with on key matters.

  • High-level decisions: Country Director talks to the CCA Meeting group (Line Manager, Lead Member Emergency Director and CI Humanitarian  Director, Head of Emergency Operations and the REC)
  • Information management (sitreps etc.): Lead Member emergency unit and CARE Humanitarian Affairs
  • Media: Lead Member media manager (who will talk to CI Media and Communications Coordinator/COMWG).
  • HR: CI HR coordinator (emergencyHR@careinternational.org)

Reports to send to CI


  • Emergency alert.
  • Latest EPP
  • Gender in Brief.

Within 24-72 hours

  • Capacity assessment.
  • Regular sitreps.
  • HSF Proposal  / budget if required (can be used as generic proposal).
  • Photos and information for media.
  • Initial response strategy.
  • Key messages on advocacy issues.

As needed

  • Assessment reports.
  • Funding proposals.
  • Human interest stories.
  • Reports for donors.

Responding to an emergency using CARE’s protocols and guidelines


This chart refers to chapters in the CET.

The phases often overlap. E.g. you can start phase D before the assessment is finished.

Lead Member

Your Lead Member directly manages the CO and makes sure it gets the advice and resources it needs. The LM emergency unit coordinates with the line manager and other Lead Member units (media, HR, fundraising, procurement, finance, etc.) to help with:

Note: The RMU, through the regional director, is the line manager for CARE USA countries. The RMU also provides support (but not line management) in other countries if asked.

CARE Humanitarian Affairs

CARE Humanitarian Affairs (led by the CI Global Humanitarian Director with support of the REC and Head of Emergency Operations ) works closely with the Lead Member and coordinates emergency support. CARE Humanitarian Affairs also:

  • organises and chairs the CCA Meeting
  • receives, comments and approves CI HSF requests
  • advises on
    • managing the response
    • using the emergency management protocols
    • policies, guidelines and tools
    • HR
    • logistics
    • training and capacity needs
    • quality and accountability standards
    • learning and evaluation.
  • manages the Emergency Roster (including the RRT) and together with the lead member provides experienced staff to help manage the response
  • coordinates with CARE International Members in
    • raising resources (e.g. fundraising)
    • sharing all key information (sitreps, updates, funding matrix, staffing matrix)
    • advocacy positions and support
    • working with the media
    • working with other agencies
    • handling requests from CIMs to reduce pressure on CO.

Other CARE members

Other CARE members help with:

  • fundraising through donors (governments) and the public (appeals, joint appeals, etc.)
  • proposal development
  • technical advice
  • advocacy within their country
  • emergency staff.

Technical specialists:

  • help with assessments, strategy and programme design
  • ensure programme interventions meet technical standards
  • provide technical tools and resources
  • find other technical experts who can help

If you need technical specialists to join your team on the ground, ask the CI Regional Humanitarian Director to find  a specialist from the CI RED to help you.
If you don’t know who to ask, please contact CARE Humanitarian Affairs.

What types of emergencies are there?

Emergency types can be based on:

  • cause: natural disaster, conflict emergency, or complex humanitarian emergency
  • speed of onset: rapid or slow
  • CARE typology (type 1, 2, 3 or 4): based on scale and impact.

This toolkit usually refers to CARE types.

What difference does the CARE emergency typology make to the response?

Follow the emergency management protocols for all types.

See ‘How emergency type affects the way CARE manages the response’ in Protocol A2 for the differences between type 1, type 2 , type 3 , type 4 responses.

Should we do an assessment?

Any emergency response must start with some kind of assessment.

If it is immediately clear that CARE needs to respond, start the response at the same time as the assessment.

Ensure that we include gender considerations in the assessment and promote also in joint, multi-agency assessments.

Where should we respond?

The emergency area is usually too wide for CARE to respond everywhere. You need to make quick strategic decisions about where to respond. Consult with national authorities and the UN — their views are important. Consider:

Where is the most need?

  • What areas are reported to be the worst affected?
  • What areas are in most need (that you know of)?
  • What areas are normally the most vulnerable?

Where can CARE help most?

  • Where does CARE already have capacity (staff, partners, infrastructure etc.)?
  • Where would CARE be able to start new operations?
  • Where does CARE have an obligation to help?

Where is the biggest gap between needs and response?

  • Where are other agencies (including government and local) assessing or responding?
  • What areas have been left out?

Which sectors should We respond in?

  • Look at the sectors noted in your EPP.
  • Look at assessments by CARE and other agencies. Where are the gaps between needs and response?
  • Which sectors does the CO already have expertise in?
  • Do these include any of CARE’s key sectors (WASH, shelter, food security, SRH)?
  • Remember to focus and not take on too many.

What form should the response take?

There are many options — e.g. direct response, direct response with a partner, and advocacy. Consider them all. Think about the CO’s current capacity, current and possible partners, and how CARE can best use its CO and international resources to help. Review the EPP and always remember gender and how to ensure this is prioritized.

How can we balance needs against capacity?

CARE has an obligation to respond on a scale that matches our global capacity. This means the CO has to think beyond its local capacity-the response must be based on needs and on our global mandate to scale up. For a type 1 / type 2 emergency the Humanitarian and Emergency strategy states that we should aim to reach 10% of those affected. For a type 4 this is 5%.

At the same time the CO must be aware of the risk of becoming overstretched. Scaling up in a way that keeps the response effective and accountable takes careful management. See ‘Tips for scaling up’.

What should we include in the initial response strategy?

Each response should start with a strategy. This should state who (populations), where (geographical areas) and which sectors the response will target and with how much money (funding target). Base it on your EPP if possible. Update it as needed during the response (especially as there is greater clarity in funding available and how the emergency is unfolding)..

The initial response strategy tells CI members what the CO intends to do. This helps them raise funds. The strategy guides the CO in a clear direction and helps it put plans into practice and report on progress. The strategy is approved by the CCA Meeting group and is a way to support the CO to say ‘no’ to funding that doesn’t match the programme activities and locations laid out in the strategy. This is key as often there will be considerable pressure on CO’s to take on new locations, new sectors, new partnership, CIK etc.

Points to include in the response strategy:

  • First assessment of humanitarian situation
  • First government, local, and international response
  • CARE’s capacity to respond
  • Goals of CARE’s response
  • Possible programme interventions (potentially including advocacy)
  • Possible populations to focus on
  • Timing
  • Analysis of cross cutting issues
  • Gender issues
  • Key issues affecting CARE’s response
  • Methods to ensure accountability
  • Resource and support requirements
  • Budget

Should we prepare operational plans?

Once you have a strategy, you should develop operational plans to help you implement the strategy. These are practical action plans to help you manage the overall response programme and operations so that you can meet the strategy’s goals.

Operational plans can take many formats and should be completed for each functional area of the response operation (e.g., staffing matrix, funding matrix, procurement plans, logistics plans, sector strategies, master budget, etc.). They should identify:

  • what extra resources you need, including people, equipment, funding and infrastructure (e.g., offices, warehouses, guest houses)
  • key issues that need to be addressed
  • what your proposed approach is
  • priority actions, including priority staffing needs
  • a clear organizational chart describing lines of authority and responsibility for the emergency response team
  • timing.
  • Funding, how you are charging across contracts — a master budget is critical.

See Annex 2.8 Operational plan format.

What if everything changes?

You need to be able to adapt if the situation suddenly worsens, changes direction or even improves.

Senior managers should plan for possible changes, including:

  • likely effects on the humanitarian situation
  • changing security situation
  • challenges in procurement, price increases
  • likely effects on CARE’s operations
  • how CARE would respond
  • how to prepare for such changes.

How do we manage the scaling up process?

Tips for scaling up

  • Scale up evenly — expand operations and support capacity at the same pace as programmes.
  • Make sure the CD does not act as emergency coordinator. If you don’t have anyone suitable, immediately ask CEG to send an experienced coordinator.
  • Accept that the emergency has already affected your normal programme. Focus on managing the effects.
  • Accept help  — even if you worry that new people will cause problems. Just make sure you get the right person for the job and provide a clear job description.
  • Expand your HR team as soon as possible to recruit all the other staff you need.
  • Don’t leave weak links in any area. A problem in one area will affect all the others.
  • Have senior managers visit as soon as possible. You need them to trust you to make decisions. It helps if they see firsthand how complex the situation is and how you are handling it.
  • Make support systems faster (but still accountable). Ordinary systems (e.g. for recruitment, procurement and finance) are usually far too slow in an emergency.
  • Expect four times more finance work than usual. If you raise extra money, take on extra finance staff. Otherwise you will lose track of your finances.
  • Make sure people doing complex emergency work have enough experience. Start new staff in less critical jobs where they can learn from experienced staff.
  • Check your inventory systems. The amount of procurement and distribution in an emergency makes it harder to spot theft and fraud.
  • Don’t ignore the small stuff. The response will not work unless all staff have supplies and equipment, space to work in, transport, a phone, and a bed.
  • Build trust. Talk openly to all staff all the time — not just to emergency teams. Watch for tension between ‘old’ and new staff and between emergency and non-emergency teams.
  • Understand the stress on staff, including you. Watch for burn-out. Make sure everyone can take time off and no-one is overloaded.
  • Don’t ignore demands for information (from CARE members, donors, other agencies, governments, media, the local community, etc.). You need a system to manage information.
  • Understand that you need the media and they need you. The amount of media attention can seem overwhelming. But you need it to raise funds and achieve advocacy goals. In return, they need you to give them a story. Have a media officer in the CO to help deal with the requests and to help journalists tell the real humanitarian story.
  • Plan for and manage visitors-they will come whether you like it or not. Have one person to look after them and deal with visas, invitations, airport pick-ups, hotel bookings etc. Have a briefing pack ready to send to visitors before they come.
  • Actively analyse and manage new risks. Emergencies always bring more risk.
  • Learn from the past. Look up evaluations and ‘lessons learned’ from past emergencies. Ask for help from people who have been through emergencies before.