Graduation Date

Spring 5-7-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Emergency Preparedness

First Advisor

Sharon Medcalf PhD

Second Advisor

Philip Smith M.D.

Third Advisor

Denise Britigan PhD



In almost every disaster situation, the use of standardized communication procedures among humanitarian relief agencies has been identified as one of the efficient practices to minimize the mismanagement of resources and thus to maximize the response effort among actors to reduce the incidence impact on the public and to increase their resilience capabilities.

Agencies have access to several guidelines to follow during domestic disasters, but there have been very few manuals developed to guide relief organizations on best practices during international large and complex natural disasters such as the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

Haiti has experienced over its history several years of natural disasters, political, social-economic instability and recently has been devastated by one of the worst earthquakes that humanity has ever known.

Methods and Findings

After the 7.1 earthquakes on January 12, 2010, it was reported that over 10,000 relief agencies, nonprofit organizations had deployed their staff for a short or a long term period to support the response and recovery effort. In order to explore the communication experiences and patterns of local and international agencies, a qualitative research study was administered, consisting of conducting semi-structured phone interviews with seventeen (17) respondents who participated in the complex humanitarian response in Haiti six years ago, using an eight question interview between February 4th and March 6th, 2016. Data and information captured through the interview process were used to document the communication process systematically, the strengths and limitations, the lessons learned and recommendations provided by the respondents. Snowball sampling was used to identify and recruit participants who have traveled as emergency medical specialists or whose responsibilities helped with the coordination of the response. Interviews were conducted in English or French and Haitian Creole depending on the participant’s linguistic preference and country of citizenship. Interview transcripts, notes and codes were analyzed using key themes proposed as a framework for the study.


Emergency response should not add more burden and responsibilities to government officials’ countries significantly affected by natural disasters and should not cause distress to the affected communities. Rapid response is thus needed but should be efficiently coordinated to avoid wasted supplies, untrained staff and an influx of inexperienced international agencies in a complex and resource limited environment. The absence of a national response plan, the lack leadership and guidance from the Haitian government have been perceived as a sign of weakness by almost all local and international relief agencies and the negative aftermath of the disaster has been exacerbated by the thousands of small organizations that came looking for visibility and ultimately undermined the quality and timeliness of the response.

Key Words: Natural Disaster, Haiti, Earthquake, Communication,Relief Agencies