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Emergency Response Team: Roles and Responsibilities

April 14, 2024

Communities may not be able to predict disasters, but they can prepare for them. As an integral part of disaster management efforts, emergency response teams work to educate and train community members in preparation for disasters and other emergency events, and to manage the response when they occur. Prospective professionals and students in disaster management should learn more about the roles and responsibilities of these teams to understand their importance in emergency response management.

Definition of an Emergency Response Team

The role of an emergency response team is to train and lead members of the community in responding to an emergency or disaster situation. An emergency response team can prepare the community for potential crises by training volunteers, developing an emergency response plan, and reviewing the equipment necessary to respond to a crisis.

In the event of a natural disaster or other crisis, an emergency response team should be ready to respond immediately with preplanned steps to mitigate the disaster. Response team members direct volunteers, monitor safety issues, and implement the necessary procedures to start the community recovery process.

The Importance of a Prepared Response Team

No community can be perfectly prepared for every disaster that may occur. The goal of an emergency response team is to leverage data-driven insights and public health expertise to create an emergency management plan that accounts for the most likely risks to its particular community. The types of situations where response teams may be called to work can vary, but here are a few examples:

  • Floods
  • Fires
  • Hurricanes
  • Chemical and/or hazardous material exposures
  • Severe winter storms
  • Acts of terrorism
  • Tornadoes
  • Widespread cases of a communicable disease

Emergency teams can vary in size, but they are rarely large enough to enact their entire emergency response plan on their own. Instead, emergency teams delegate tasks to volunteers and professionals in other fields while carefully managing the response efforts to effectively implement their plans. 

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Task Delegation

Emergency response volunteers help educate the community before disasters, guide the community during disasters, and perform basic duties to assist emergency response professionals. Here are just a few duties that might be delegated to volunteers during a crisis:

  • Performing basic first aid
  • Distributing food and supplies
  • Assisting in finding shelter for displaced residents
  • Removing debris
  • Assisting in reconstruction projects
  • Responding with empathy

Delegating these tasks to trained volunteers allows emergency response teams to expand their reach to a larger community and accelerate the disaster recovery timeline.

Emergency Response Management

In addition to training and leading volunteers, emergency response teams manage the response to crises and natural disasters. Here are a few examples of the duties response team members may perform:

  • Assessing the community’s risks
  • Evaluating response plans
  • Reviewing the community’s preparedness
  • Responding to emergencies
  • Mitigating disasters
  • Leading the recovery process

Response teams have multiple specialist positions, each of which may have a different focus. The timeline of the event can also affect the importance of each of the team’s duties. For example, an ongoing crisis requires frequent risk assessments, but when a response team is working on recovery in the aftermath of a natural disaster, the team may spend more time working on reconstruction.

Roles and Responsibilities of an Emergency Response Team

An emergency response team is a group of individuals who work together to respond to natural disasters and crises. The members of these teams typically have distinct roles, and each role has unique responsibilities in the event of an emergency. The following are just some of the potential roles within a response team, which is often tailored to a specific community’s needs. 

Safety Coordinator

Safety coordinators work in factories and other industrial settings to monitor work conditions. Industrial facilities employ emergency response teams to organize emergency responses and manage risks to employees. Safety coordinators can lead informational safety workshops and promote the effective use of personal protective equipment.

Emergency Medical Technician

Natural disasters and other emergencies frequently result in injuries, so emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are first responders who are essential members of a response team. They evaluate the condition of patients before providing vital care and preparing them for safe transportation to medical facilities.

Disaster Recovery Manager

Response teams need managers to oversee the disaster recovery process. Disaster recovery managers create team goals, review disaster management plans, and guide the recovery efforts after a crisis. The position requires excellent communication skills and critical thinking in high-pressure situations.

Public Health Nurse

Public health nurses advise officials on community health needs. They also work with other public health officials to research methods of serving the community based on population-level data and insights. Thanks to public health nurses, community members have access to medical care and understand the broader range of resources available to them.

Find Your Next Step in Emergency Management

If you are interested in learning more about emergency response teams, consider applying to Tulane University’s Online Master of Public Health in Disaster Management (MPH DM) program. Tulane’s program is led by experienced faculty and covers both the environmental and the public health challenges of communities experiencing disasters.

Find out how you can lead response efforts on the front lines of crises to promote public health and positive community well-being.

Advance Your Public Health Career with an MPH

Pursue Your Degree Online From Tulane University
Find Out More

Recommended Readings:

What Is a Disaster Management Cycle?

Emergency Preparedness Coordinator: Role and Requirements

Developing a Disaster Communication Plan: 8 Steps


Federal Emergency Management Agency, Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)

Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Preparedness Goal

Indeed, “12 Careers to Consider in Emergency Management”

Metropolitan Police, Washington, D.C., Emergency Response Team

National Response Team, Working Together to Protect Against Threats to Our Land, Air and Water

Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Planning and Responding to Workplace Emergencies