After disasters or major accidents, a disaster reception centre (DRC) is usually established to support those who are directly impacted by the incident, but physically unharmed. This centre can also be called an information and support centre. The above figure shows an example of how a DRC can be organised.

The police assess and make the final decision about whether a DRC should be established, in collaboration with the local authorities in the area where the incident occurred. The responsibility for establishing and operating the DRC lies with the local authorities, or with the employer in the case of a workplace accident.

In the DRC, local authorities and police personnel can register, support and follow up people impacted by accidents and disasters (primarily those physically unharmed). Next of kin can also gather here for reunion with their loved ones. Families who cannot be reunited because of injured, missing or deceased family members should also receive necessary crisis support at the DRC. Hospitals usually establish their own next of kin centres for the families of physically injured patients.

In the DRC, evacuees and their families receive medical attention, psychosocial support and information. Local authorities, often in co-operation with the police, are responsible for management of the DRC.

A DRC is usually organised in several collocated departments:

  • Reception and registration
  • Centre for evacuees
  • Centre for next of kin
  • Counselling/meeting rooms
  • Information
  • Security/access control

Each department in the DRC should have a leader responsible for operations and personnel. Deputies must be appointed for all central roles. DRC personnel should have clear role definitions and work within a defined organisational structure. Tasks should be described on action cards.

In a catastrophe, the police are responsible for reception and registration, information, security and access control. However, they may also have many emergent tasks. Staffing the DRC may therefore be given a lower priority. The local authorities are responsible for operations and psychosocial support in the DRC, but must also be prepared to take over some of the police’s tasks in the initial phase of the incident. This could for example be reception and registration. Personnel must be prepared to deal with unfamiliar colleagues and leaders.

The primary task of the crisis response team and other professionals providing psychosocial care in the DRC is to offer support and information to evacuees and their families. Another central task is assisting in reunion of families and possibly breaking bad news. Other municipality employees are responsible for operating the DRC.

The crisis response team is organised based on competence. Both the centre for evacuees and the centre for next of kin should have a leader/coordinator from the crisis response team. This person acts as the link between the DRC management team and the staff providing psychosocial support. The leader should coordinate psychosocial support, prioritise tasks and delegate staff. As the incident unfolds, leaders need to reorganise and reprioritise in coordination with the DRC management team.

Site of incident
Hospital reception/registration
Transport (bus, train, car), parking
Counselling/meeting rooms (2-3)
Relaxation/lounge area (several)
Accommodation (several)
Centre for evacuees
Common room/reunion
Centre for next of kin
Log, switchboard, accounting
DRC management team/command post
Owner/operator of facilities
Crisis management team
Public telephone