How can social protection systems be used in disasters, as a complement to, or substitute for, humanitarian assistance? Oxford Policy Management led a research project investigating this question, looking at the role of social protection in both mitigating the impact of large-scale shocks and supporting households after a crisis hits. We identify factors that can help and hinder effective disaster response, and consider how social protection actors collaborate with others working in humanitarian assistance and disaster risk management (DRM). This policy brief specifically focuses on the characteristics of existing social protection databases that enhance or limit their potential use in emergencies. It draws on examples from across five of the project’s case studies: Lesotho, Mali, Mozambique, Pakistan and the Philippines. We explore the factors affecting the usefulness of social protection data – focusing on non-contributory social protection alone as this was the focus of our research across the five case study countries – in four sections: 1. We first provide some clarification on different types of social protection databases, as this has very different implications for shock-responsiveness. 2. We discuss the five dimensions of social protection ‘data quality’ that enhance or limit their use in emergencies: completeness, relevance, currency, accessibility and accuracy. 3. We explore what can be done with this data for disaster preparedness and response. 4. We provide some final conclusions and recommendations.