1.3. Information management and communications in emergencies and disasters

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Although information during the first hours of a disaster may be abundant, it may be less than reliable. Therefore, the major challenge is to get clear information—from reliable sources that can be double checked—that reflects the situation on the ground and the priority needs of the affected population.

1.3.1. Damage assessment and needs analysis in health (health DANA)

Health authorities, along with the entities responsible for providing emergency assistance, should promote damage assessment and needs analysis (DANA) as a priority task. Below is a summary of the most relevant aspects of DANA. (The Inter-agency Standing Committee’s Multi-Cluster Initial Rapid Assessment is designed to identify strategic humanitarian priorities during the first weeks following an emergency).



Continuation of 1.3

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1.3.2 Managing information

The priorities of the information management and communication specialists who are on national health response teams (NHRTs) are:

  • Compiling, organizing, and preserving information on the emergency. Optimal understanding of the context and impact of the emergency requires prior information on the affected area, including maps and background material such as statistics, socioeconomic indicators, historical data, and other reference material.
  • Supporting the health DANA process carried out by the NHRT on site.
  • Directing the preparation of situation reports (SITREPs) based on DANA Here is one suggested format.
  • Coordinating timely and efficient exchange, dissemination, and distribution of information both internally and throughout the national and international disaster response system with all its actors.
  • Maintaining up-to-date information on the emergency situation. It is important that information be kept up to date not only on impact and needs, but also on action taken and its impact on the emergency.
  • Collaborating in preparing project proposals and other technical documents.
a. Collecting information

Given the range of aspects that must be evaluated, this task should be assigned to a multidisciplinary team capable of interpreting specific data from the different areas—for example, a National Health Response Team (NHRT) (see section 4 of this module for more information).

The information compiled through the health DANA should be useful in writing technical reports (reports on epidemiology, sanitation, intervention and response, situation reports, reports on health hazards and impact, reports identifying risk factors) and in analyzing the health situation and risk factors as a guide to decisions regarding the improvement of response activities. Sources should be trustworthy and varied:

Primary sources: data collected directly by the DANA team, working with people in the health area.

Secondary sources: reports from other organizations, existing baseline data, press releases, and other information from sources that can be checked.

The teams conducting the health DANA must interact and share information with other response teams and institutions working on the ground, and keep in close touch with the Health Sector Emergency Operations Committee, to which they transmit their information.

b. Information management

There must be a mechanism in place to quickly transmit the information generated on-site to decision-makers. Local information is collected on-site and sent to the epidemiology unit or local situation room for processing.

The results are presented to the local Health Sector Emergency Operations Committee, which makes decisions on actions to be taken with the resources available at the time. If the resources or operational capacities needed to solve a problem are lacking, the information is sent to the regional/departmental level, and then the national level if the problem cannot be solved at the regional/departmental level. Equally as important, there must be mechanisms for information to travel in the opposite direction, in the form of guidelines, instructions, actions, resources, and other support for action on the ground.

Information for decision making on health matters in emergencies

manejo informacion toma decisiones-Eng