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What is preparedness?

The term ‘preparedness’ refers to the ability of governments, professional response organisations, communities and individuals to anticipate and respond effectively to the impact of likely, imminent or current hazards, events or conditions. It means putting in place mechanisms which will allow national authorities and relief organizations to be aware of risks and deploy staff and resources quickly once a crisis strikes.

By improving the speed and quality of assistance provided, preparedness can make a major difference in saving lives and reducing suffering. An appropriate level of preparedness can also increase the value for money of relief action and ensure that scarce resources are directed to where they will have the greatest impact.

Who is involved in emergency preparedness?

Many institutions and organizations are involved in emergency preparedness, including ensuring that their own organizations are prepared for spikes in needs and demand for resources. On behalf of the multilateral humanitarian system, the IASC has established a Reference Group on Risk, Early Warning and Preparedness (REAP), chaired by WFP and UNDP. A sub-group deals specifically with emergency preparedness, in particular the roll-out of the Emergency Response Preparedness (ERP) approach.

IASC REAP contacts:

Anthony Craig, WFP (chair):

Patrick Grémillet, UNDP (chair):

Preparedness for refugee-related emergencies is ensured through the Preparedness Package for Refugee Emergencies, coordinated by UNHCR.  

How is preparedness linked to risk reduction and resilience?

Emergency preparedness belongs to a broader group of activities designed to lessen the likelihood and impact of disasters on people’s lives. These include prevention, mitigation and response to humanitarian emergencies. While emergency preparedness focuses narrowly on improving the response to disasters once they have occurred, the international community has several other tools to work on disaster risk reduction (DRR) and resilience.

Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction

The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction is an inter-governmental framework to reduce disaster risk around the world. It was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2015 and has four priority areas:

  1. Understanding disaster risk
  2. Strengthening disaster risk governance to manage disaster risk
  3. Investing in disaster risk reduction for resilience
  4. Enhancing disaster preparedness for effective response and to ‘Build Back Better’ in recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction.

The Sendai Framework recognizes member states’ responsibility to reduce disaster risk in their own countries, but also calls for increased international support to allow high-risk countries implement DRR programmes.

Capacity for Disaster Reduction Initiative

The Capacity for Disaster Reduction Initiative (CADRI) brings together six United Nations organizations – FAO, OCHA, UNDP, UNICEF, WFP and WHO – to ‘deliver as one’ on capacity development to national governments. The aim is to combine resources, experience and expertise to provide customized development services in DRR to countries at risk of disasters, including capacity on preparedness for emergency response.  

Useful links

United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction
IASC Reference Group on Risk, Early Warning and Prepared​ness
Ready to Respond - Interagency Project