A Less Painful Approach To Planning For Emergencies

WFP’s Yemen office was an ideal candidate to pilot the organization’s new emergency planning package.  Facing conflict, insecurity, refugees, drought, serious food insecurity , the Yemen operation is a microcosm of all the challenges WFP faces.

ROME -- Yemen Country Director Giancarlo Cirri was less than thrilled about having his team be the guinea pigs for a new package designed to enhance  planning for emergencies, fearing that it would use up precious time and produce a document that would be forgotten about when an emergency actually happened.

But after going through the process, he now praises the package for establishing clear, concrete steps to take. “It’s also proving to be a management tool. It’s a workplan, making us collectively review our analysis of a very complex emergency country more formally and regularly, taking steps as we need to.”

The package integrates the three processes that existed independently before: Contingency Planning, Business Continuity Planning and Risk Analysis.  

risk analysis team in yemen meeting around a tableRisk analysis

But it is Risk Analysis that really underpins everything. “We sat down with the staff in Yemen and identified and ranked each risk as to likelihood and impact,” explains Andrea Bagnoli, a Rome-based Emergency Preparedness and Response Officer. “Then we worked with each of the Country Office units to guide them through the ‘Minimum Preparedness Measures’ which are compulsory under the new Package. “

This approach generated staff ownership of the process.  “Staff from Human Resources and Finance, for example, told us that they had never been involved in emergency preparedness planning before and it’s clear they so really need to be.  For example, who would be the person you would turn to find extra drivers and cars in an emergency – someone from one of these units. “The Yemen Country Office staff then went through a series of Checklists, which helped assess the level of preparedness.

Information available

“In the past the information for those extra cars and drivers would have been in someone’s head or on their computer, and if they can’t get to the WFP office, even such simple information might not be available,” says Jonathan Campbell¸ an EP officer based in Cairo. “A simple, sensible step is therefore to have this information more widely accessible and to be clear who is responsible for it.”  

Bagnoli adds that establishing firm timelines for the actions shown as necessary by the which the Checklists  is very important. “This is what lifts the Country Offices to the minimum preparedness level.   But this is only one part of the Package.  Next comes  Emergency Readiness – helping staff decide when to step up operations from the Minimum Preparedness Measures after a warning flag is raised. There is also a set of Standard Operating Procedures for critical actions in the all-important  first 72 hours of an emergency.”Further testing needs to be done in other Country Offices to reflect the range of countries in which WFP works, but roll out and training is planned for the start of 2011 in the Regional Bureaux.  

Piloting the package

The Emergency Preparedness and Response Package was piloted in Yemen by the entire Country Office team with Jonathan Campbell and Andrea Bagnoli. In Rome, it was developed by former WFP Russia Country Director, Inge Breuer, Andrea, Lisa Biederlack, and Diego Fernandez,  with valuable inputs from the Regional Bureaux and key units in HQ.