The response phase of an emergency may commence with search and rescue, but in all cases the focus will quickly turn to fulfilling the basic humanitarian needs of the affected population. This assistance may be provided by national or international agencies and organizations. Effective coordination of disaster assistance is often crucial, particularly when many organizations respond and local emergency management agency (LEMA) capacity has been exceeded by the demand or diminished by the disaster itself.

Personal Level Response
On a personal level the response can take the shape either of a shelter in place or an evacuation. In a shelter-in-place scenario, a family would be prepared to fend for themselves in their home for many days without any form of outside support.
Rushing Victim to Ambulance
In an evacuation, a family leaves the area by automobile or other mode of transportation, taking with them the maximum amount of supplies they can carry, possibly including a tent for shelter. If mechanical transportation is not available, evacuation on foot would ideally include carrying at least 3 days of supplies and rain-tight bedding, a tarpaulin and a bedroll of blankets being the minimum.

Response Donations
Donations are often sought during this period, especially for large disasters that overwhelm local capacity. Due to efficiencies of scale, money is often the most cost-effective donation if fraud is avoided. Money is also the most flexible, and if goods are sourced locally then transportation is minimized and the local economy is boosted. Donors often prefer to send gifts in kind, which can be helpful if well matched to real needs. However, due to poor communication some donations are poorly matched to needs, are sent to the wrong places, or are simply more appropriate for a thrift store than disaster relief. These items can end up imposing more of a burden while real needs go unmet, and can also flood local markets and economically hurt local producers. One innovation by Occupy Sandy volunteers is to use a sort of gift registry for disasters; families and businesses impacted by the storm make specific requests, which remote donors can purchase directly via a website.