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"This interactive page provides an overview and summary of key activities and achievements of the Global Disaster Preparedness Center from 2018 through the end of 2020. While providing an extended snapshot, these three years of activities and learnings contain some noteworthy accomplishments, key changes, and interesting opportunities.

Looking ahead, a changing humanitarian landscape impacted by a pandemic and climate change will continue to drive the evolution of the GPDC.  Preparecenter.org is central to our knowledge management strategy; here we will continue to share dynamic resources and innovations to help preparedness practitioners and inform users."

Omar Abou Samra, Director of the Global Disaster Preparedness Center

Coordination and Networking

The GDPC capitalizes on its privileged position between the American Red Cross and the IFRC to share and disseminate experiences and innovations of the American Red Cross’s Domestic and International programs and of the broader RCRC network.

The GDPC also plays an essential coordination role with external partners on issues related to Disaster Preparedness, such as universities, research entities, international organizations, and technology companies.

According to studies conducted by the Hong Kong Observatory, urbanization contributes about 50% of the warming in cities like Hong Kong. Concrete buildings store heat in the day and release it in the night, unbalancing the normal day and night cooling cycle. in addition, tall building block air circulation and reduce wind speed.

The UCP aims to strengthen the knowledge and operational skills of RCRC National Societies in complex urban settings.

Partnering with Red Cross National Societies of Indonesia, Vanuatu, and Myanmar, the American Red Cross, and the GDPC have implemented a new approach to building urban community resilience and developed and applied the Urban Community Resilience Toolkit.  You can learn more about this initiative and find the learnings from the Coalition Building for Urban Community Resilience experience.

What Now Service

In 2018, the GDPC launched the WhatNow Service to increase the dissemination of RCRC actionable guidance on how community members can safely prepare for and respond to local hazards. National Societies are able to adapt IFRC’s public awareness and public education key messages for disaster risk reduction, ‘publish’ them on the WhatNow portal and form partnerships with media networks to ensure access to messages via an open API.

To date, 25 National Societies have published messages and the WhatNow portal and the WhatNow toolkits have been enhanced with features and guidance to facilitate increased engagement. In August 2020, Google started integrating WhatNow Messages within their SOS Alerts as ‘Safety Tips’ across Google Search, Google Maps, and Android’s Google apps. You can read this Google Product Update on Natural disaster safety tips: a Q&A with the American Red Cross (GDPC)

Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement Resource Compendium

The GDPC and the IFRC developed a Red Cross Red Crescent Movement Resource Compendium that offers a comprehensive, dynamic and evolving list of documents positioned to support the Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The COVID-19 Compendium sites are the main repository managed by each unit on the IFRC headquarters and regional offices. The compendium includes:

As part of the Climate Advocacy, the IFRC in collaboration with the Climate Centre and the GDPC launched the report "The Cost of Doing Nothing." This analysis shows that if no urgent action is taken by now, by 2050 the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance could double annually due to the climate crisis, similarly, financial costs could balloon to 20 billion US Dollars per year.
Moreover, in partnership with Airbnb, the GDPC adapted safety preparedness messages and guidelines on 28 hazards for Airbnb hosts and guests of home hosting and experiences.



What Makes A community disaster-ready?


Heat Toolkit


Immersive Technologies & Digital Games for School Disaster Preparedness

Under the research service area, the GDPC partners with universities and contracts external experts to conduct research that extends the evidence base for Disaster Preparedness (DP).

The GDPC targets research activities designed to fill key gaps in global DP knowledge:

  • Immersive technologies & digital games for school disaster preparedness: The research stresses the enormous potential of XR for SBDRR alongside cautioning that any use of XR must not recreate DRR education as it already is, but utilize the unique affordances of the technology to bring added value to what is already in practice with other learning modalities.
  • In partnership with the University of Washington, the GDPC conducted research on Strategies for Designing RCRC Preparedness Messaging in Digital Applications. It identified ways to enhance the methodology of Human-Centred Design and learning into application development. The research concentrated on the interaction of end-users with both the First Aid and Multi-Hazard app, and further explored how technology developers working for the Red Cross integrate participatory, end-user focused approaches into their technology design thinking.
  • Over the course of 2019-2020, the American Red Cross commissioned a meta-evaluation of 24 program or project evaluations, half of which were of American Red Cross community disaster preparedness programs, and half of the programs implemented by external actors to explore What makes a community disaster-ready?

When relevant, the GDPC will support Federation research needs, such as the adaptation of National Society Business Continuity Planning to the COVID-19 environment.

The GPDC supports research from the broader RC/RC network on Disaster Preparedness issues around climate change, heat waves, and urban engagement:

  • The GDPC contributed to the Heatwave Guide for Cities,  a practical guide designed with, and for, people working in city government to understand, reduce the risk of, and respond to, heatwaves in their cities published by the IFRC and under the leadership of the IFRC Climate Center.
  • The GDPC is also supporting the German Red Cross, which has recently embarked on a large-scale program to strengthen the capacity of National Societies in responding to humanitarian crises in urban contexts.
  • In addition to that, the GDPC has been working with the Livelihoods Resource Center of the Spanish Red Cross to guide and assist National Societies to alleviate the immense impact of COVID-19 on household economic security and livelihoods of small and micro-businesses, particularly in urban areas. 

We help build the global community for disaster preparedness, innovation, and learning.

Innovation and Technology

The GDPC continuously pilots innovative technology solutions for preparedness and helps National Societies and other preparedness organizations to take them to scale.
This includes a bundle of smartphone Apps:
  • To support RCRC National Societies in using mobile technologies to make people safer and more resilient to disasters, the Universal App Program - composed of the First Aid and the Multi-Hazard mobile applications - was further developed and expanded. The GDPC continued to provide first-line technical support, troubleshooting any issues that arose as National Societies created and managed their app content, or as users encountered any bugs or difficulty in their app usage. In 2020, the First Aid app has been launched by 105 RCRC National Societies in 45 languages and the Hazards app by 26 RC/RC National Societies in 14 languages. The Universal App Program apps have over 6 million downloads and over 544 million user sessions worldwide.
  • The WhatNow Service, developed in partnership with Google, is a global platform of Red Cross / Red Crescent National Societies’ key action messages on how individuals and households can safely prepare for and respond to local hazards. The WhatNow Service is founded on IFRC’s Public Awareness and  Public Education (PAPE) key messages designed to help National Societies scale up their work in disaster risk reduction campaigning, partnerships, and education.
  • Business Preparedness Initiative: provides a mobile application Atlas: Ready for Business that small business owners and managers can use to assess their level of preparedness for natural and man-made disasters.
Innovation is not limited to technology and includes new ways of:
  • The GDPC, in partnership with National Societies and Save the Children, developed a Kids Activity Kit that families and kids can use in understanding COVID-19. It is a collection of activities focused on protective actions, mental health exercises, acts of kindness, and general disaster preparedness games - all of which encourage learning through play. They are offered in ‘activity card’ formats with easy step-by-step instructions and child-friendly characters. This format, and its availability in multiple languages, make it easier for National Society communicators, partners, and the general public to utilize the resources. To date, it is one of the most visited sites on preparecenter.org.
  • As part of the Business Preparedness Initiative, the GDPC developed Atlas Workshop in a Box which is a downloadable set of resources that enable any facilitator to run a series of business preparedness and resilience workshops for small and medium organizations. The workshop material is suitable for both for-profit and non-profit organizations. 

Knowledge Management


Based on a strong belief in the power of knowledge, the GDPC’s efforts in knowledge management include the design and hosting of a website: preparecenter.org which serves as a primary tool for communication and collaboration and garnering audience engagement and feedback.

Through the website, the GDPC presents a living library of Disaster Preparedness tools and resources collected from the American Red Cross, National Societies, the IFRC, ICRC, and external organizations.

  • Throughout 2019 and into 2020, the GDPC redesigned and rebuilt the entire site using WordPress, an open-source, easy-to-use suite of website development tools. The site provides information, resources, and guidance in multiple languages, including English, Spanish, French, and Arabic, the four official IFRC languages.
  • This knowledge management function also provides a surge capacity for the Federation membership, as was illustrated during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The GDPC hosted a compendium of COVID-19 resources for National Societies and two Help Desks for Health and Business Continuity Planning. Over 200 COVID-19 guidance documents were uploaded and made available to National Societies and the wider public on behalf of the Movement.
RCRC Research Mapping

As a member of the RCRC Research Consortium (RC3), the GDPC developed a mapping that aims to collect past and current research activities, studies, and academic papers that are supported by the members of the RC3 and captures some of the research activities which, when considered as a whole, would rival most universities, academic and research institutions.

The ultimate goal is to achieve a greater humanitarian impact based on an evidence-based culture with optimized resources.

To date, there are more than 300 projects included and over 50 contributors.

Portfolio Review

This portfolio review seeks to document the status of specific GDPC projects in 2020 as well as the GDPC’s involvement in different areas. Outlined are key initiatives the GDPC is engaged in, as well as more general areas of focus.

Under each section, a short overview of the status is provided followed by an analysis and recommended actions.

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We help build the global community for disaster preparedness, innovation, and learning.

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