7. Frequently Asked Questions

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 CCG and is a way to support the CO to say ‘no’ to funding that doesn’t match the programme activities and locations layed 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.