How to develop an Emergency Response Plan *


Developing Emergency Response Plans that are robust and truly localised is an ongoing challenge for NGOs, especially when launching operations in a new country or region.

The importance of getting risk mitigation and management right is paramount, particularly given an organisations broader Duty of Care responsibilities. A poorly devised Emergency Response Plan will harm not only your staff and volunteers, but the project viability, company brand reputation and more importantly, the very people who are relying on your help.   

Emergency Response Plans can be made up of security, contingency, evacuation, emergency action and medical emergency plans, and may be referred to in different ways by different companies.

The strongest Emergency Response Plans cover all contingencies that your team could face in one single plan, rather than in separate, disconnected plans.

Emergency response planning should be part of any program development process and incorporate a template that can easily be completed during program planning. 

A few considerations:

  •  In countries where programs already exist, review and update the Emergency Response Plan on an as-needed basis (ie. If the security or medical risk situation changes, or operations are launched in a new region), or at least once a year.
  • The biggest issue with developing and keeping Emergency Response Plans up to date is the lack of priority they are given by headquarters or senior management.
  • Safety and security responsibilities should be included in the job description of the CD/COP and should be part of their performance appraisal process.
  • Where this is not possible or there is no dedicated security professional on the project team, appoint a local staff member as the Safety and Security Focal Point (SSFP) and give them responsibility for all safety and security issues/requirements and response within the project operational area.
  • Include the Emergency Response Plan as a listed task for an internal audit team to review.
  • Be specific. Most plans do not detail specific information such as pre-determined safe locations where help is available. This might include medical facilities that have been audited, and other organisations that can provide assistance.
  • Outline details for an incident management team on the ground. This saves precious time and ensures your team has direction while HQ senior management activate the crisis management team.
  • Develop scenario and training drills and practice them regularly.
  • Ensure field safety and security is a standing agenda item at senior management meetings..

In emergency situations, preparation is the key to positive outcomes. 


*Based on the blog post by Norman D Sheehan, “Emergency Response Plans a Focus at InsideNGO” published at