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Disaster Assistance Support Program
Disaster Assistance Support Program
Global Leaflet: Disaster Issue

Each year, natural and human-caused disasters take a heavy toll on the survival, dignity, and livelihoods of people and communities around the world. And due to the impacts of climate change, disaster losses are on the rise.  The loss of lives, socioeconomic and environmental impacts of disasters – which disproportionately affect the poor – often set back long-term development efforts in a country or region.

The Hyogo Framework for Action is a comprehensive and global approach to disaster risk reduction, with the goal of reducing disaster losses in terms of lives and in the social, economic, and environmental assets of communities and countries. The Framework has five priorities for action:

  1. Ensure that disaster risk reduction is a national and a local priority with a strong institutional basis for implementation.
  2. Identify, assess and monitor disaster risks and enhance early warning.
  3. Use knowledge, innovation and education to build a culture of safety and resilience at all levels.
  4. Reduce the underlying risk factors.
  5. Strengthen disaster preparedness for effective response at all levels.

The Disaster Management Program is working with partners around the globe to achieve Hyogo Framework goals by providing training and technical expertise in the areas of emergency preparedness, response and disaster mitigation. As part of U.S. Forest Service International Programs, the program employs the technical expertise of the agency to enhance partners’ capacity to prepare for and respond to all types of natural and human-caused disasters.

As communities become more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, strategies that integrate climate change adaptation and disaster mitigation are needed. The Forest Service, with its rich expertise in both natural resource and disaster management, is uniquely positioned to assist global partners in managing climate change risks – through the development of management and conservation strategies for vulnerable ecosystems, as well as by strengthening institutional adaptation and disaster management capacity.

Disaster Management Program partners include the U.S. Agency for International Development country Missions and Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA), the U.S. Department of State, the United Nations, international and regional institutions, partner country governments, non-governmental organizations, and other stakeholders involved in disaster  management.

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Forest Service disaster management expertise has developed through its extensive experience in wildland fire management. Our disaster-related training is based on National Incident Management System components, with a focus on Incident Command System (ICS), an emergency/disaster response system that evolved from a wildland fire response system developed in California in the 1970s by the Forest Service, California state and local partners. Early in the development process, four essential requirements became clear:

  1. The system must be organizationally flexible to meet the needs of incidents of any kind and size.
  2. Agencies must be able to use the system on a day-to-day basis for routine situations as well as for major emergencies.
  3. The system must be sufficiently standard to allow personnel from a variety of agencies and diverse geographic locations to rapidly meld into a common management structure.
  4. The system must be cost effective.
Over the past 30 years, ICS has expanded to address all hazards. The Forest Service has utilized the system extensively in all types of emergencies, including earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, disease outbreak, and human-caused incidents such as the September 11 terrorist attacks and the Columbia Shuttle disaster. Since 2004, ICS is the mandated emergency response system used by all federal, state, and local agencies in the US. In 2003, ICS was recommended as the global standard for wildland fire incident response at the International Wildland Fire Summit.

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Our Work

The Disaster Management Program provides technical expertise and training in two main areas:

  1. ICS Technical Support and Training
  2. Facilitating Development of National Incident Management Systems 
  • Incident Command System (ICS) Technical Support and Training

    ICS is a management framework designed to integrate personnel, equipment, procedures, facilities and communications during complex events, enabling more effective response operations within a common organizational structure. ICS is structured into five essential functions: Command, Operations, Planning, Logistics, and Finance and Administration. Using this structure, first-responders and other trained personnel can be assigned to positions with clear responsibilities regardless of their agency or jurisdiction. Another key feature of ICS is a standard planning process to broadly communicate incident objectives and ensure that responders’ collective actions meet those objectives through a unified response. In this way, ICS enables integration across institutional, local, state, regional, and/or national boundaries; ensures correct and timely information; and maintains an integrated response.

    ICS is designed to expand or contract in a modular fashion that can be scaled to handle all sizes and types of emergencies, from single-car accidents to civil conflict or catastrophic natural disasters. Because of its flexibility, ICS is also used for other complex events including large conferences and other planned activities.

    The Disaster Management Program provides training for international partners to understand and utilize ICS. The Forest Service has worked with numerous governments and non-governmental agencies to teach and implement ICS. The Disaster Management Program has been working intensively with the Government of India since 2002 to integrate the ICS into the disaster response system of India.  The program includes a train-the-trainer scheme for an 11-course ICS curriculum, pilot implementation in selected areas, and a process for customizing and institutionalizing the system. The Disaster Management Program is currently working with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to incorporate ICS into the emergency response systems of ASEAN’s ten member nations, as well as at a regional level. Pilot countries include Brunei, Philippines, and Thailand.  Other ICS trainings and programs have been conducted in Albania, Australia, Bhutan, Canada, Indonesia, Mexico, Mongolia, South Africa,  Sri Lanka, and Taiwan. Activities have included consultations, seminars, training sessions, and the development of simulation exercises, as well as study tours that enable participants to observe the actual use of the Incident Command System on large emergencies in the U.S.
  • Facilitating Development of National Incident Management Systems

    The National Incident Management System (NIMS) was established in 2004 to enhance the ability of the United States to manage domestic incidents. NIMS provides a consistent nationwide approach for incident management that enables federal, state, tribal, and local governments, as well as NGOS and the private sector, to work together before, during, and after incidents. NIMS has five components: Preparedness, Communications and Information Management, Resource Management, Command and Management (including ICS), and Ongoing Maintenance and Management. Together, these interdependent components provide a holistic and comprehensive approach towards disaster management.  With an over 100-year history of disaster management experience, the Forest Service established policies, guidelines, and mechanisms were foundational to the development of the NIMS.  The Forest Service holistic approach to disaster management includes:  early warning systems; preparedness levels; protocols for information formatting and flow; interface with the public for disaster communications; mobilization and coordination of interagency resources; pre-positioning of resources; on-scene command and control; prioritization of resources across multiple incidents, geographic areas, and political jurisdiction; interagency coordination; and management of systems to adhere to quality standards. 

    The Disaster Management Program is applying Forest Service expertise in operationalizing NIMS to assist global partners in enhancing their disaster management systems.  From 2005 to 2008, the Disaster Management Program teamed with other US federal, state, and local agencies to design and implement a tsunami early warning system in the Indian Ocean. An ongoing program with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization includes consultation, after-action reviews, and development of emergency response standard operating procedures.  In 2008, the Disaster Management Program began a program with the Government of Ethiopia to strengthen disaster risk management capacity by integrating relevant components of NIMS into the Ethiopian disaster management system. 

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Contact Information

If you would like to learn more about the Disaster Management Program or discuss possible collaboration with the US Forest Service, please contact one of our staff: 

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