Rapid emergency responses can significantly reduce the impact of an emergency, particularly human suffering and fatalities, but also structural, resource, and ecological damage. Response speed is important as delays in emergency responses can lead to greater losses. There are various types of emergency services. They may be specialized to deal with specific types of emergencies such as oil spills and nuclear accidents, terrorism, highly toxic chemicals, sea rescue, avalanches, and bomb disposal. Emergency services such as the police, fire and medical services deal with a broad range of emergency situations. Emergency services may not be adequate for reasons such as lack of resources and inadequate management. They can often be overwhelmed, especially during severe natural or man-made disasters which occur without warning and cause great loss of life, trauma, structural and environmental destruction. Cross-sectoral action may be required to provide effective and rapid emergency response services.
What we know about people in crisis: 1) shared purpose and meaning brings people together; 2) people display unparalleled levels of creativity and resourcefulness; 3) people want to help others - individual agendas fade immediately; 4) people learn instantly and respond at lightning speed; 5) the more information people get, the smarter their responses; 6) leadership behaviours (not roles) appear everywhere, as needed; 7) people experiment constantly to find what works.
In addition to the UN's International Emergency Readiness and Response Information System (IERRIS), DHA has recently established the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination Stand-by Team, in order to respond rapidly following a sudden onset natural disaster. The UNDAC Stand-by Team has already been mobilized for serious flooding in Nepal, and the Maharashtra earthquake in India (arriving 24 hours later), among others. The UNDAC team cooperates with the UN Disaster Management Team (DMT) and the UN Resident Coordinator at the on-site level. In 1993, the first large-scale international exercise in emergency response was hosted and organized by Austria and sponsored by DHA.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies spent 150,140 Swiss frans in 1993 to enhance the Federation's ability to respond to disasters in a rapid manner in support of National Societies' actions.