Contingency planning

Contingency planning aims to prepare an organization to respond well to an emergency and its potential humanitarian impact. Developing a contingency plan involves making decisions in advance about the management of human and financial resources, coordination and communications procedures, and being aware of a range of technical and logistical responses. Such planning is a management tool, involving all sectors, which can help ensure timely and effective provision of humanitarian aid to those most in need when a disaster occurs. Time spent in contingency planning equals time saved when a disaster occurs. Effective contingency planning should lead to timely and effective disaster-relief operations.

The contingency planning process can basically be broken down into three simple questions:
• What is going to happen?
• What are we going to do about it?
• What can we do ahead of time to get prepared?

This guide helps planners think through these questions in a systematic way. Contingency planning is most often undertaken when there is a specific threat or hazard; exactly how that threat will actually impact is unknown. Developing scenarios is a good way of thinking through the possible impacts. On the basis of sensible scenarios it is possible to develop a plan that sets out the scale of the response and the resources needed.

Our new Contingency planning guide (see right) breaks contingency planning down into five main steps, shown in the diagram below. Each step is covered by a separate chapter in the guide.

In order to be relevant and useful, contingency plans must be a collaborative effort. They must also be linked to the plans, systems or processes of other government, partner or Movement bodies at all levels – national, regional and global. There is a suggested format for contingency plans annexed to the guide and also a collection of training modules available from the IFRC.

Find out more

Documents available:

New: Contingency planning guide

This Contingency planning guide is the second version produced by the IFRC, and builds on our experience around the world. The simple steps outlined here are the distillation of years of good practice. Most important of all, this is a guide for practitioners, volunteers and staff working with National Societies around the world, who wish to benefit from the collective experience of their colleagues.

Contingency planning and preparedness should be considered a core organizational activity for every National Society. The revised guide will support disaster management practitioners in developing contingency plans which are simple, participatory, realistic and supported by preparedness actions that are identified as a result of the contingency planning.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world's largest humanitarian organization, with 189 member National Societies. As part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, our work is guided by seven fundamental principles; humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality. About this site & copyright