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Who can give permission to initiate cultural heritage first aid? In most cases, the custodian of the affected cultural heritage gives permission for initiating first aid operations. Custodians may take many forms, for example a national or local government institution, or a religious trust. However, the custodian is not the sole authority. During an officiallydeclared emergency, priorities for response are defined by the agencies in charge of managing the incident. The emergency management laws of a country play a large role in determining who, or which agency, has the overall authority to initiate response actions and provide access to the affected area(s). Therefore, prior clearance and coordination with the agency in charge of organizing the overall emergency response, and the permission of the custodian, are required to initiate cultural heritage first aid operations. Who coordinates the overall emergency response? In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, clearing operations underway in Kathmandu, Nepal, 2015. Photo: Tapash Paul/Drik. Introducing cultural heritage first aid 15 For an officially-declared emergency, the designated state authority will usually appoint an emergency response coordinator, or an incident commander, who will set up the emergency management system according to a predefined procedure. For example, in India, the National Disaster Management Authority coordinates the response to all natural and man-made disasters under the 2005 National Disaster Management Act. Depending on the needs and scale of the hazard event, emergency responders, such as civil defence units, Red Cross volunteers, police and the military, work within the emergency management system of a country to secure lives, restore means of communication and transportation, and fulfil other basic needs. For a major emergency, the national government may seek assistance from another country, or from the international community, under the leadership of the United Nations (UN). The UN directs humanitarian responses through the InterAgency Standing Committee (IASC), which is composed of key humanitarian actors from the UN and international agencies. Within 48 hours of the onset of an emergency, the IASC classifies it according to scale, complexity, urgency, and existing local capacity for managing the situation, based on an initial assessment. In the event of a Level 2 or Level 3 emergency, the UN will activate a coordinated, multi-agency (UN, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations) response, grouping humanitarian aid into thematic clusters. Such emergencies often indicate that local authorities and their capacities to respond have been critically affected. In these situations, local government will work in coordination with international agencies to perform activities, such as assessments and funding appeals within a cluster. Currently, culture is not included within this cluster system.