When disasters and, generally speaking, disruptive events occur, people respond to the threat and contain it the best they can. The official terms surrounding disaster management (like disaster relief and disaster response) often vary and people confuse them or use them interchangeably, but there is actually a pretty strict delimitation when it comes to all sides of this support process.
Here is a brief overview of how the various sides of disaster management work and intertwine:
- Disaster Management – this is the widest aspect, referring to the entire cycle of emergency management;
- Emergency Planning – this phase refers to identifying risks before the disastrous event even occurs
- Disaster Response – the second phase of the cycle, comprising immediate assistance services, such as search and rescue, distributing supplies, providing emergency medical care and so on. Also called disaster relief by some.
- Disaster Recovery – the last phase of disaster management, taking place after the immediate emergencies of the second phase have been dealt with. This phase focuses on making sure the affected lives return to normal as fast as possible.
- Business Continuity – this part focuses on disaster recovery for businesses, ensuring that companies affected by disasters can pick up their normal activity as fast as possible and that the temporary disruption doesn’t prove to be the end of the company as well.
- Disaster Recovery Services – a sub-set of business continuity, this part of a BCP (Business Continuity Plan) focuses mostly on IT system and the protection of virtual protocols and data.
- Business Contingency Management – a post-disaster set of plans and activities, destined to make businesses more resilient and able to cope with future disruptive events (preparedness training).
Disaster response, therefore, is an emergency stage of activities destined to bring some relief to those affected by a disaster, and is one of the main focuses of humanitarian actions and organizations everywhere.
Disaster Response Jobs and How to Get Involved
If you’re tempted of getting involved more into disaster response activities, first of all we need to congratulate you for your noble intentions, and second of all, to provide you with an overview of how to start. Before looking for opportunities on how to get involved, you need to decide how much time you can dedicate to this: do you want to be involved on and off, as a volunteer, or do you want to make an actual profession out of it?
If you want to get involved as a volunteer, you can do this on a low-key mode, with your local emergency response team (every area has one, so do a quick search and you should be able to get in touch with your local emergency management force in no time). There are also the major international organizations who are always looking for more volunteers to join their operational forces. We will give you more details about what the best humanitarian action organizations are and how to get in touch with them and see what you can contribute with, in the section below.
As for disaster response jobs and careers, this side of the intervention field is also full of opportunities. Since people working in disaster response are basically super-heroes, trained to not only do their job flawlessly, but also do it under considerable time pressure and without all the usual tools and props, serious certification is required. Usually, the certification one needs in order to be a licensed emergency management team member comes from FEMA. This government agency also provides the training required for the major specializations needed. Here are just a few examples:
- Medical emergency response staff (nurses and field doctors);
- Bomb alert engineers;
- Data backup scientists;
- Communications officers;
- Search and rescue team members (including firefighters);
You can find out more about the training offered by FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute (EMI) here.
A Few Disaster Response Organizations
Humanitarian and disaster relief organizations are active all over the world, and the international ones usually focus more on the countries where the government lacks the resources to provide proper disaster response on its own. Since most acts of disaster response are aimed first and foremost at meeting people’s most basic needs, and therefore a central government that isn’t able to help the people affected by disaster really needs all the help it can get. The most important thing about disaster response, though, is that it’s always an organized and systematic activity, no matter who is the central authority behind the organization (either a national government or an NGO). There can be spontaneous interventions for disaster response, but they are usually on a local neighborhood scale and will either fizz out or become part of a larger scheme.
Without further ado, here are the major disaster response organizations you should know about:
- The Red Cross – The Red Cross is an international organization with a strong presence in its U.S. branch, so basically whenever natural disasters have struck us in the past few years (tornados, hurricanes and floods), the Red Cross has provided a huge relief for those affected. Find out more about how you can get involved here.
- The United Nations (UN) – Another great international organization that handles very varied types of disaster response and humanitarian work, besides various other responsibilities in diplomacy and so on. The UN also has some pretty high-end emergency management jobs for those of you who already have experience with humanitarian work and emergency relief coordination.
- The Catholic Relief Services – One of the most important Christian organizations present in the U.S., the CRS welcomes all kinds of volunteers for their wide array of humanitarian actions, beyond disaster response (donations, doing some hunger relief actions from the charity fund and so on).
- The Lutheran Disaster Response (LDS) – The other major Christian organization that provides disaster response nationally and internationally, the LDS welcomes plenty of volunteers and professionals altogether.
- World Renew (WD) – One of the most active organizations in the field of disaster response and humanitarian work, WD has a very complex layering of projects and activities in which you can get involved with.
Last, but not least, if you’re willing to try going abroad for a disaster relief work experience, the first step you should make is to read this guide on what skills you need and where to start. Good luck!