Disaster Assistance Response Team

A. Overview

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) has developed a response capability called the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) as a method of providing rapid response assistance to international disasters, as mandated by the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA). A DART is deployed to a disaster-stricken country at the discretion of the OFDA Director and with the concurrence of the U.S. Ambassador or Chief of Mission. The DART consists of specialists trained in a variety of disaster relief skills and assists the USAID Mission or U.S. Embassy with management of the U.S. Government (USG) response to the disaster. The activities of a DART vary depending on the type, size, and complexity of the disaster to which the DART is deployed.

1. Purpose

The DART provides an operational OFDA presence capable of carrying out sustained response activities that may include the following:

  • Providing technical assistance to the U.S. Ambassador in formulating and executing an appropriate USG response to the disaster.
  • Developing and, on approval, implementing OFDA’s response strategy.
  • Continuing to assess and report on the disaster situation and recommend followup actions, including suggested funding levels.
  • Coordinating the movement and consignment of relief commodities.
  • Analyzing existing capacity of the infrastructure and relief agencies to ensure an appropriate, efficient response.
  • Reviewing and recommending approval for (or approving, when delegated the authority) relief program proposals.
  • Assisting in the coordination of the USG’s relief efforts with the affected country, other donors and relief agencies and, when present, other USG entities, including the U.S. military.
  • Monitoring and evaluating OFDA-funded relief activities.


DARTs coordinate their activities with the affected country, private voluntary organizations (PVOs), nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), international organizations (IOs), and United Nations (UN) relief agencies and other assisting countries. When U.S. military assets are involved with the disaster response, the DART will work closely with those assets to ensure a coordinated effort by USG resources.

2. Structure

The structure of a DART is dependent on the size, complexity, type, and location of the disaster and the needs of the USAID Mission and U.S. Embassy (USAID/Embassy) and the affected country. The number of individuals assigned to a DART is determined by how many people are required to perform the necessary activities to meet the strategy and objectives. A description of each DART position is provided in this chapter. The DART organizational structure is shown in figure IV-1.

A DART is composed of six functional areas:

  • Management/Liaison. Manages overall DART activities, including liaison with the affected country, PVOs/NGOs/IOs, other assisting countries, and U.S. military; the development and implementation of plans to meet strategic objectives; and safety and security.
  • Operations. Manages all operational activities carried out by the DART, such as search and rescue activities, technical support to an affected country, medical and health response, and aerial operations coordination. Most active during rapid onset disasters.
  • Planning. Collects, evaluates, tracks, and disseminates information about the disaster. Reviews activities and rec-ommends future actions. Develops the DART operational (tactical) plan.
  • Logistics. Supports the DART with team supplies, equipment, and services. Orders, receives, distributes, and tracks USG-provided relief supplies.
  • Administration. Manages fiscal activities of the DART. Procures goods and services required by the DART. Provides cost accounting of DART activities.
  • Communications. Manages DART communications. Supervises and trains personnel in the equipment and systems. Develops and implements the DART communications plan.

3. DART Activation and Deployment

The decisions regarding a DART’s activation and mission are made at a disaster response planning meeting held at OFDA in Washington (OFDA/W). Final approval on deploying a DART rests with the OFDA Director.

The DART is organized and supervised by a Team Leader selected by the OFDA Director. The Team Leader works directly for the OFDA Director or his or her designee. The OFDA Director provides the Team Leader with a scope of work and delegation of authority, if needed, for the DART. These documents outline the DART’s objectives, priorities, constraints, funding authorities, and reporting requirements. Based on this information, the Director, in consultation with OFDA’s Senior Management Team (SMT), will identify and fill other team positions.

Before departure, the Team Leader will attempt to contact the U.S. Embassy and/or USAID Mission (if present in the affected country) to discuss the situation, review the DART’s structure, size, objectives, and capabilities, and identify the areas of support needed by the DART in-country.

On arrival in an affected country, the Team Leader reports to the senior U.S. official to discuss the DART’s objectives and capabilities and receive additional instructions and/or authority. While in the affected country, the Team Leader advises and may receive periodic instructions from USAID/Embassy. The Team Leader maintains a direct line of communications with OFDA/W throughout the operation. The primary point of contact for the DART is the OFDA Regional Team, or if activated, the Response Management Team (RMT).

The duration of a DART operation is determined by USAID/Embassy and OFDA/W and is based on the disaster situation, the progress of the DART in meeting its objectives, and the recommendation of the Team Leader.

Figure IV-1 portrays the positions and relationships described in this section. This chapter provides position descriptions and checklists, grouped by DART functional area, that outline the roles and responsibilities for DART members. These descriptions are also applicable for defining the roles and responsibilities of members of OFDA Assessment Teams.

Additional positions that exist under the Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Task Force leader are described in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) Urban Search and Rescue Response System Field Operations Guide.


Prev: Figure IV-1. Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) Organizational Structure
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Last updated: May 18, 2017