ALERT: Preparing to respond now

The ALERT project developed an innovative emergency preparedness system that helped humanitarian agencies respond with greater speed, efficiency and effectiveness, before and immediately after a disaster striked.

Credit © Vincent Henson, HelpAge International

About the project



Research shows that many aid organisations are inadequately prepared to respond effectively and immediately when disasters strike, with limited access to resources that could help them do this. Sustained and dynamic preparedness is a challenging goal for the sector, and to achieve this preparedness must be re-imagined with greater emphasis on collaboration between organisations.

The ALERT System was a user-driven solution that used technology as a tool to overcome the challenges of disaster preparedness and response faced by humanitarian agencies and donors. It streamlined the emergency preparedness and response process and enhanced coordination and learning. The system was designed to enable donor agencies to quickly identify and fund response plans even before the onset of a disaster or immediately after one, thereby it was able to increase the chances of saving lives.

Designed for humanitarian agencies and donors, regardless of size or mandate, a key aspect of the project was the multi-sectoral collaboration between humanitarian agencies, donor agencies, international institutions, academia and the private sector (tech companies, risk management firms, law firms for example). The project brought together the collective knowledge and experience of these various sectors and drew on their different strengths in order to find innovative ways to improve emergency preparedness and response – all in one system.

The ALERT system included a package of tools, training and manuals, which are freely available and adaptable to any context, by any humanitarian agency. The collaborative project, which ran in eight countries, enabled users to share feedback and recommendations which were used to help refine the system as it is rolled out to more countries.


Over three years, the project did the following:

1. Researched existing preparedness processes and concepts.
2. Designed a harmonised and configurable emergency preparedness system.
3. Converted concepts into practice.
4. Tested these processes in four countries.
5. Updated and improved the system based on learning and review.
6. Expanded and used the system in four more countries.
7. Finalised the system, based on further feedback.
8. Disseminated the system to the humanitarian sector.


Key features of the system


Risk analysis

The ALERT project worked with the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre in Italy to incorporate INFORM and G-DACS data into the system to help country offices map hazards and assess risks.



Early warning - hazard indicator monitoring

Monitoring provided early warning of emerging risks, which in turn allowed for early action, such as escalating preparedness activity, reviewing response/contingency plans. ALERT enabled users to monitor key indicators, ensuring that country teams were aware of changes in their context.



Minimum & advanced preparedness actions

Minimum preparedness is a set of predetermined activities that the country team must implement in order to establish and maintain a minimum level of emergency preparedness. ALERT enabled users to automate this preparedness process through, preloaded preparedness activities that could be assigned, executed and tracked, and a traffic light system (green, amber and red) to denote the status of the activity. The ALERT team worked with the CHS Alliance to incorporate a set of preparedness actions to be compliant with the Core Humanitarian Standards.



Online preparedness/response planning

This section of the system allowed for teams to put together a preparedness/response plan. They are basic forms that cover who they will be helping in the event of a disaster and how they plan to do it. The system allowed for different plan templates to be completed using one central form. This enabled country teams to submit multiple plans to different bodies all at once.


Read more about the key features of the project.
View the prototype of the system.

Who was involved?

This project was delivered through a consortium led by HelpAge and included Oxfam, CARE, Islamic Relief, Handicap International and Concern. Coventry University was also a partner.

Where did the project take place?

The project operated in eight countries through the country offices of the agencies that were involved and their partners – Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Kenya, Mozambique, Pakistan, Philippines and Somalia.


The project was funded with £1,987,000 by UK Aid’s Disaster and Emergencies Preparedness Programme (DEPP).

Key contacts