What is GDACS?

GDACS is a cooperation framework between the United Nations and the European Commission. It includes disaster managers and disaster information systems worldwide and aims at filling the information and coordination gaps in the first phase after major disasters.

GDACS provides real-time access to web‐based disaster information systems and related coordination tools.
A more detailed description of GDACS purpose, content and guidelines, agreed and approved by the steering committee can be found here.

GDACS activities are presented and endorsed by the GDACS Advisory Board, which is currently chaired by the Joint Research Centre. Annual GDACS Advisory Group meetings are attended by disaster managers, scientists, map experts, webmasters and other professionals, to define standards for information exchange and a strategy for further development of related tools and services.

The Activation and Coordination Support Unit (ACSU) or Emergency Response Support Branch (ERSB) in the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Geneva acts as GDACS Secretariat.

What services does GDACS provide?

The integrated GDACS website offers the following disaster information systems and online coordination tools:
1. GDACS Disaster Alerts, which are issued and disseminated to some 25,000 subscribers immediately following sudden-onset disasters. The automatic estimates and risk analysis–the basis of the alerts –are provided by the European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC).

2. The Virtual OSOCC a restricted online platform for real-time information exchange and cooperation among all actors in the first phase of the disaster. Information updates from the affected country and international responders are moderated by a dedicated team. The Virtual OSOCC has some 19,000 registered users, and is managed by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

3. Maps and satellite imagery from various providers are shared on the Virtual OSOCC trough the GDACS Satellite Mapping and Coordination System (SMCS). It provides a communication and coordination platform where organisations may monitor and inform stakeholders of their completed, current and future mapping activities during emergencies. This service is facilitated by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) United Nations Satellite Center (UNOSAT).

Who uses GDACS?

Many governments and disaster response organisations rely on GDACS alerts and automatic impact estimations to plan international assistance and have subscribed to the VirtualOSOCC to use the tool for information exchange and coordination in the first disaster phase.

Many governments and organisations have formalised the use of GDACS tools and services in their national disaster response plans, in particular its automatic alerts and impact estimations and the VirtualOSOCC.

GDACS information is openly accessible through the GDACS platform interfaces. Data and estimated impact can be directly integrated into other web portals or websites through RSS feeds or other standard formats.

Why is GDACS important?

During the first days after major sudden-onset disasters, the affected country and a vast number of international actors collect and analyse information in order to plan their response. This activity is typically carried out simultaneously with varying speed, relevance and accuracy, using multiple information channels and applying different procedures.

During the initial planning phase, there is usually little or no information exchange between international responders. Decisions are often based on patchy information, inaccurate sources or assumptions. The planned or mobilised assistance of other organisations is rarely drawn into consideration. This often results in duplication, gaps, overlap or even inappropriate response, occasionally associated with high costs.

GDACS services aim at facilitating information exchange among all actors in support of decision-making and coordination. GDACS services build on the collective knowledge of disaster managers worldwide and the joint capacity of all relevant disaster information systems.