Guidelines for Rapid Environmental Impact Assessment in Disasters - Version 5, 2018

Originally published


The Guidelines for Rapid Environmental Impact Assessment in Disasters (REA) provide a means to define and prioritize potential environmental impacts in disaster situations. The Guidelines are composed of four main parts and six supporting Annexes. The main parts include an Introduction to the REA, and modules on Organization and Community Level Assessments, as well as Consolidation and Analysis of assessment results. The Annexes include information sources, forms used in the assessment and information useful in managing the REA process.

Executive Summary

The Guidelines for Rapid Environmental Impact Assessment in Disaster (REA) is a tool to identify, define, and prioritize potential environmental impacts in disaster situations. A simple, consensus-based qualitative assessment process, involving narratives and rating tables, is used to identify and rank environmental issues and follow-up actions during a disaster. The REA is built around conducting simple analysis of information in the following areas:

• The general context of the disaster/conflict.

• Disaster/conflict related factors which may have an immediate impact on the environment.

• Possible immediate environmental impacts of disaster/conflict agents.

• Unmet basic needs of disaster/conflict survivors that could lead to adverse impact on the environment.

• Potential negative environmental consequences of relief operations.

The REA is designed for natural, technological or political disasters or crises, and as a best practice tool for effective disaster assessment and management. The REA does not replace an environmental impact assessment (EIA), but fills a gap until an EIA is appropriate. The REA can be used from shortly before a disaster up to 120 days after a disaster begins, or for any major stage-change in an extended crisis. Since the design of the REA in 2003, it has been used in a range of ways, from a compressed and rapid version in the first days of a disaster to a more thorough process involving many stakeholders that has overlapped with the recovery stage of a large-scale disaster. The tool is flexible and adaptable to different scenarios.

The REA does not provide answers as to how to resolve environmental problems. It does provide sufficient information to allow those responding to a disaster to formulate common sense solutions to most issues identified. Where solutions are not evident, the REA provides sufficient information to request technical assistance or to advocate action by a third party. The REA contributes to activity and environmental monitoring and evaluation (M&E) but does not replace a formal M&E system.

The REA does not necessarily require expert knowledge. Primary REA users are people directly involved in disaster response operations, with a basic knowledge of the disaster management process but no background in environmental issues. Although the REA can be completed without expert knowledge, a certain level of environmental expertise and experience helps with the analysis and consolidation of the assessment findings. The REA process can also be used by disaster survivors with appropriate support. The best results are expected to come when the REA is completed with structured input from disaster affected people and organizations providing relief assistance. Sections of the REA can also be used for needs assessment and environmental impact screening during relief project design and review.

The REA guidelines and background materials can be accessed at