For Help Contact:
CARE Emergency Group (CEG) Emergency Information Coordinator
Tel: +41 79 623 7955
Email: emergencyinformation@careinternational.org

42. Information management

Information management is required in an emergency to ensure that everyone working for CARE gets the precise information that they need, and for communicating essential information to CARE International, donors, UN coordinating agencies and other humanitarian organisations.

This includes alerts, sitreps, donor reports, assessment reports, rapid gender assessments, gender in briefs, response strategy, disaggregated data and tables of beneficiaries, and targeted information bulletins. Information management is vital in an emergency. It allows sharing of information and coordination between different parts of CARE. It also ensures essential information is shared as appropriate with the media, the public, donors, UN agencies, local government and other humanitarian organizations.

In a crisis or disaster situation, information management ensures the accuracy of the information that managers rely on to make critical decisions. Clear and timely information is also vital for every part of CARE to be able to provide timely and effective life-saving support.

Information needs are often underestimated in a large scale emergency, but it is proven that an effective information management system is a critical factor in determining the quality and effectiveness of the overall response.

1.1 Overall CI roles and responsibilities for information management

1.2 Role of the Information Manager

Checklist

  • Watch closely for signs of possible disasters (e.g. early warning systems, weather reports, political events).
  • Alert CI and any other stakeholders about a possible emergency, by completing the Alert format and sending it to CI – CEG.
  • Begin sending situation reports after the initial emergency alert and establish a system to deliver regular sitreps(timing as agreed with the CCG and reviewed as the emergency evolves .
  • Put in place internal information management systems.
  • Ensure information needs of the CARE International federation are met.
  • Nominate staff member/s to manage enquiries (IMO for information enquiries, Communications Officer for media inquiries) and share their details with CEG and Lead Members.
  • Provide information required to support media liaison, communication and fundraising work (refer also to Chapter 13 Media).
  • Ensure that the Information Management Officer manages meeting attendance and information distribution.
  • Share key and relevant information about CARE and CARE’s programmes with communities, local government, donors, peer agencies and Humanitarian Information Centres (HICs).
  • Archive and create backup files of all reports, documentation and correspondence.
  • Ensure telecommunications and IT infrastructure is adequate to support effective information management.
  • Set up an emergency operations room.
  • If adequate information management cannot be put in place in the country, establish a system of remote support.

Checklist

  • Issue an emergency alert immediately after the emergency has occurred, or in anticipation of an emergency situation (typhoon, flooding, conflict etc.).
  • Ensure that the emergency alert follows the CARE Emergency Alert format.
  • Ensure the alert is approved by the Country Director.
  • Send the emergency alert to the Lead Member and CEG.

An emergency alert is issued as soon as the emergency has been verified, usually within the first hour of the CO learns of the emergency. An emergency alert should also be written in anticipation of the emergencies, such as a typhoon that is predicted to make landfall, or if heavy rains upstream in a catchment is expected to results in flooding downstream, looming food insecurity or political crisis.

The emergency alert notifies CARE International and activates the decision-making processes outlined in Protocol C6 Response Initiation. The issuing of an emergency alert is guided by Protocol B3 Emergency Alerts.

The format that must be used is available at Annex 42.2 Emergency Alert Format.

3.1 Writing the emergency alert

3.2 Distributing the emergency alert

The sitrep is the main vehicle for communication between the CO and other parts of CARE International, so it is critically important that the CO ensures that sitreps are of a high quality. The sitrep is often the only tool that CARE International stakeholders have to monitor the appropriateness and effectiveness of the response. Rightly or wrongly, a poor-quality sitrep will be seen as an indication that the overall response may not be effective. It is therefore important to get the sitrep right and make sure it is an accurate reflection of CARE’s response on the ground.

It is important that the IMO liaises with other members of the emergency team to gather inputs for the sitrep in time for its release. All critical CO information must be included. Other team members are responsible for assisting the IMO with information from their areas of responsibility.

Checklist

  • Put in place a system to prepare regular situation reports.
  • Establish and agree with the CCG the frequency of situation reports.
  • Follow the CARE International situation report format.
  • Include key annexes with each situation report.
  • Ensure the situation report is approved by the Country Director.
  • Distribute the situation report to key stakeholders on agreed dates.

After sending an initial alert, the CO should begin sending regular sitreps to update on the humanitarian situation, and CARE’s planning and response.

4.1 Frequency of sitreps

4.2 Writing the sitrep

4.3 Attachments to the sitrep

4.4 Translation capacity

4.5 Distributing the sitrep

Checklist

  • Identify internal information management needs.
  • Establish internal information flows and communications tools.
  • Ensure the Information Management Officer facilitates information sharing.
  • Consider the full range of sources of information available.

Effective information management requires internal information management systems to be put in place. If internal information sharing mechanisms are not in place, it will be difficult to answer external queries. The IMO needs to make sure that information sharing mechanisms are in place, and that everyone gives the information they need to and gets the internal information they need, when they need it.

The IMO should build on existing information management systems (such as internal filing systems or intranets) where possible. If a system does not exist, the IMO should prioritise creation of an appropriate system for management of emergency information. The lead member for the response should be consulted for assistance with establishment of an adequate IM system.

The type of IM system will depend on the availability of information technology in the affected country; reliable internet access, for example, would enable an online- or cloud-based IM system such as CARE’s TempoBox or DropBox, which can be accessed by all staff with internet access, as well as email communications. However this will more likely be the exception than the norm and other more basic IM systems may need to be developed.

Depending on the type of system being used and the scale of the response, a commercial option may need to be considered; the Lead Member should be sought for advice on this. A discounted financial arrangement with companies such as DropBox can often be made in emergency circumstances.
You may also consult the Minerva website.

5.1 Internal information management needs

5.2 Establish internal information flows and communications tools

5.3 Data and information collection and reporting

5.3.1 Reporting population data

5.4 Information sources

5.4.1 Internal CARE information sources

5.4.2 External information sources

Checklist

  • Ensure that information needs of the CARE International federation are met.
  • Work with CEG to make the flow of information easier.

When a large emergency hits, CARE Members need clear and timely information from the CO to provide support, including donor funding and public fundraising.

The nature and range of CARE International stakeholders can be confusing. Please read Protocol A1 Mandates, roles and responsibilities, for a description of key stakeholders and their roles in an emergency.

The information requirements of CARE International stakeholders can at times seem overwhelming at the CO level. However, it is extremely important to be able to respond effectively to these information needs so that the federation can support the response through funds mobilisation, human resources, advocacy and other support.

6.1 Key CARE international stakeholders and email lists

6.2 CARE International information needs

6.3 Information the Country Office should request from CI Members

During an emergency, the large number of requests for information and clarifications can quickly overwhelm senior staff. A staff member, usually the IMO, should be nominated to handle all enquiries. When in place, apply the following:

Checklist

  • Inform CEG and all CARE international Members of the name, email and phone number of the Information Management Officer and communications Officer.
  • Advise that the Information Management Officer is the first point of contact for all information enquiries and the Communication focal point for all media/communications inquiries.
  • The Information Management Officer should respond directly to the requests that can be answered with the information available.
  • Refer any sensitive requests to the Emergency Coordinator or Country Director.
  • The Emergency Coordinator or Country Director should be copied on significant responses.
  • If the Information Management Officer does not have enough information to answer a request, contact the most appropriate Emergency Response Team member or other source to seek out the information.

If the CO has a press officer on the ground, the press officer will prepare releases, human interest stories and photos for CARE International Members to use in media, communication and fundraising work. Where there is no press officer, the IMO should collate useful information for media work and send to the CI Media and Communications Coordinator (emergencycommunications@careinternational.org), who will then share with COMWG as appropriate. The CI Media and Communications Coordinator, and COMWG, can then use this information to create press releases and other communication materials. The information below is also urgently required by fundraising units to help with appeals and other fundraising activities. See also Chapter 13 Media. This information should be incorporated into the CO information management system so that all users can easily access it  when dealing with external stakeholders or preparing for media interviews.

Checklist

The type of information that is helpful includes:

  • Statistics on the disaster
  • Statistics on CARE’s response to the disaster
  • Human interest stories and personal accounts of people affected by the disaster and of CARE beneficiaries
  • Personal stories and anecdotes from CARE workers
  • Photos of the disaster
  • Photos of beneficiaries
  • Photos of CARE workers in action
  • ‘Dollar handles’ or specific examples of how much emergency aid costs per individual helped—for example, $10 buys plastic sheeting for a family shelter and enough rice to last for a week.

Checklist

  • Ensure key meetings are attended.
  • Ensure information from meetings is shared with other CO staff.

Emergency coordination meetings are time consuming, but can generate important information and assist interagency coordination (refer to Chapter 40.5 Humanitarian coordination). Meetings will involve many members of the emergency team and should be attended by the most relevant staff for each meeting.

All staff attending meetings should be sure to circulate meeting notes to the IMO and/or other key staff. The IMO can assist with meeting management by:

  • Obtaining times, dates and locations of key meetings, usually available from the UN offices (OCHA or the HIC);
  • Posting the meeting schedule in a prominent location;
  • Identifying, with the emergency coordinator, critical meetings and key staff responsible for attending.

If appropriate technical or programme staff cannot attend a meeting, the IMO may be asked to attend on behalf of the office. Before attending any meeting, the IMO should be briefed by the emergency coordinator as to whether any representation is required, or whether the meeting is a listening opportunity only.

Checklist

  • Ensure that the host government is well informed about CARE’s programmes.
  • Exchange information with peer agencies and HICs.
  • Keep donors informed about the humanitarian situation and CARE’s response.
  • Support programme reporting where requested.
  • Ensure communities and local stakeholders are well informed about CARE and CARE’s programmes.

10.1 Sharing information with the host government

10.2 Peer agencies and Humanitarian Information Centres (HICs)

10.3 Sharing information with donors and reporting

10.4 Sharing information with communities and other local stakeholders

10.4.1 Strategies to implement information sharing

10.4.2 Different options for communicating with communities

All reports, documentation and correspondence should be archived, and backed up on more than one source. Saving information to a DVD on a periodic basis, as well as backing up to a hard drive, can save data when there is a computer breakdown or a hard drive failure. Paper archival may be useful as an added protection, but security is a concern where sensitive information is involved. While CARE is non-political, a negative interpretation of seemingly innocent information could have unforeseen consequences.

It is important to have a comprehensive daily record of operational details, not only for lessons learned and standard accountability purposes, but also in case a later after-action report or analysis needs to be made into how a particular situation evolved.

There are times when adequate information capacity cannot be put in place in the country or location of the emergency operations. This may be because of access restrictions, damage to telecommunications infrastructure or political sensitivities. In these cases, systems may need to be put in place to allow remote assistance with information management. Remote assistance for information management can include:

  • Acting as a central contact point for receiving and channelling information requests on behalf of the CO when communications are limited;
  • Preparing sitreps and other written reports on behalf of the CO based on verbal information received by phone;
  • Attending meetings in coordination hubs outside of the country, and reporting information back to the CO or emergency operations.

In these cases, the following considerations apply:

  • Remote support is a poor substitute for effective information management capacity at the emergency location and should only be used as an option of last resort;
  • Clear lines of communication between the CO, the remote support for information management and other stakeholders must be put in place, or it can result in confusion and mixed lines of communication;
  • In some cases, the Country Director may not be able to approve the sitreps or other key information (for example, talking points). In these cases, the Lead Member may approve on their behalf. Approval authority in these cases should be clarified by the CCG at the outset of the emergency;
  • Remote support is only a partial solution, and the CO must still put in place effective systems for internal information management to ensure that the remotely located IMO receives adequate and accurate information;
  • Plans must be put in place to install adequate capacity in the country or site of emergency operations as soon as possible;
  • The remotely located IMO can assist the CO to provide adequate and appropriate information by ensuring they have the right formats and tools.

Effective information management requires adequate telecommunications infrastructure, so that people are able to talk, and send documents and photographs electronically. In many emergency contexts, this infrastructure is damaged and will need to be re-established as quickly as possible. For more information, refer to Chapter 2o Telecommunications and IT.

It is highly advisable to set up an emergency operations room for managing the emergency response. This helps internal information management and coordination. The IMO can coordinate the setting up of the operations room. The operations room should have critical reference information available in one place, such as maps, meeting schedules, funding matrices and staff movement boards. For a full list of what should be put in an operations room, see Annex 42.19 Emergency Operations Room checklist.

When an emergency occurs in a country that has no previous CARE presence, and there is no CO, CEG may be asked to establish a temporary CARE presence. In this case, functions normally handled by a CO may be handled either by members of CEG’s rapid response team (RRT), or by drawing on the CARE International Roster for Emergency Deployment (CI RED). Details are worked out in the crisis coordination call, and staffing is handled by the CI CEG Surge Capacity Coordinator.

The Emergency Capacity Building (ECB) Team Project, ECB4, brought together seven NGOs, including CARE, to look at how to improve information management for NGOs. The ECB final reports are located at: