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The Innovation Process
Humanitarian Parameters

Disaster management cycle

There are several models for the disaster management cycle, but they generally follow the same phased approach. Although the model appears to be linear, it is often far more complex, with secondary crises emerging, or conflict ‘spikes’ in protracted crises.

When it comes to our humanitarian parameters, it is key to be able to articulate which of the stages of this cycle your innovation is aimed at (it may well be more than one stage). What stage is the problem you are seeking to address most prevalent in? Is it something that will help prepare for or mitigate against the impact of a disaster? Is it something that is designed to help search-and-rescue in the response phase? Having clarity will help you to communicate your aspirations and design an appropriate solution.


It is also critical to note that trying to engage crisis-affected communities and responding organisations in your innovation in the immediate response period should not be attempted unless there is prior agreement with those groups to do so. You should not be distracting from meeting core humanitarian needs or putting any further stresses on crisis-affected populations and responders. The early stages of response are chaotic, and responders, both from the affected communities and humanitarian agencies are often overwhelmed and overstretched. Work with the humanitarian agencies and responders to carry out your testing in lower-level emergencies and with lots of training, pre-planning and preparation first.

7 phases of the disaster management cycle

  1. Prevention: Activities aimed at trying to prevent future disasters occurring, such as building dykes or a dam to control flooding.
  2. Mitigation: Activities aimed at trying to mitigate the impact of a disaster if prevention is not possible, such as building schools to be more earthquake resistant.
  3. Preparedness: Activities aimed at trying to prepare communities for a disaster, such as emergency drills or pre-stocking relief items in logistic hubs.
  4. Disaster: An event that causes significant damage to people, property and infrastructure.
  5. Response: Activities aimed at understanding needs and responding to them, including rapid assessments, provision of food and non-food items, provision of water, sanitation and hygiene services, and health and shelter interventions. In the immediate hours and days after a disaster, when search-and-rescue activities are critical, it is most often local actors who are first to respond. Information is often patchy and confused, there can be significant damage to infrastructure, and large movements of people.
  6. Recovery: Activities aimed at trying to return communities to normal life, such as livelihoods development or formal education. Recovery activities can start when the disaster has stabilised, and the affected population has access to food and water and some form of transitional shelter. This stage is sometimes divided into two: early recovery and medium-term recovery.
  7. Reconstruction: Activities aimed at rebuilding infrastructure and housing. This can often take years and many activities may also blend back into mitigation, such as retrofitting schools to make them more earthquake resistant.