Model Protocols


Objective: The objective of a rapid needs assessment is to document population-based needs following a natural disaster. This method has been successfully used in responding to hurricanes, floods, and ice storms.

Outcomes: Local and regional health officials can use the results of the rapid community needs assessment to :

  • identify health and service needs and hazards that might not be immediately obvious, or that develops as the disaster progresses;
  • target relief efforts at the people who need them most (e.g., assessing medical needs and providing services to high risk groups);
  • identify which needs have been successfully met.

This assessment can also provide accurate estimates of the numbers of people affected and the severity of the physical damage after a disaster.

Rapid needs assessments can also provide real-time information about whether people returning to their homes have access to:

  • safe food and water supplies;
  • sources of power (e.g., gas, electricity);
  • communication services (e.g., telephone, radio);
  • medical and public health care for both acute and chronic conditions, including access to prescription drugs.

Benefits: After natural disasters, needs for services and medical treatment may vary within the affected community and may differ according to the needs of specific populations. In addition, these needs can change rapidly over time as relief activities progress and as people move in and out of the community. This assessment can provide rapid (within 48 hours usually), valid, and relatively precise estimates of the needs of the community.

Methodology: The rapid needs assessment is conducted following a protocol developed by CDC. A random sample of 30 blocks (or other sampling units) is selected for the affected city or county. Interview teams (4 to 10 teams) interview approximately seven to ten households per block using a one-page questionnaire. The questionnaire can be customized for the locale and the apparent needs of the community. The interview teams are composed of staff and volunteers from the local, regional, and state health department (Rapid Needs Assessment Team) . The interviews (approximately 200), data entry, and data analysis can be completed within 24 to 36 hours. These surveys can then repeated over time (if necessary) and when needs change.

Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) Contacts: Local and regional health departments may request assistance from DSHS (Central Office) by contacting David Zane , Community Preparedness Section.

Lead members of the DSHS (Central Office) Rapid Needs Assessment Team are:

David Zane, Epidemiologist
Community Preparedness Section

Tracy Haywood, GIS Analyst
Community Preparedness Section

Other members of the DSHS (Central Office) Rapid Needs Assessment Team will consist of individuals skilled and experienced in sampling and survey methods, geographical information systems, epidemiology, and public health. The DSHS (Central Office) Rapid Needs Assessment Team will assist and partner with local and regional health departments.

Model Questionnaire: 

Texas Rapid Public Health Needs Assessment Instrument

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Last updated June 28, 2011