Recent experience with foot and mouth disease (FMD) has shown that large and very costly epidemics can occur in countries considered extremely unlikely to experience the disease. The consequences of an introduction are much more severe than in the past and effective control is more difficult to achieve. Few countries have developed effective risk management strategies and information-based response systems to respond to these developments. The authors describe the tools which can be employed to minimise the impact of a disease incursion, using the example of FMD. To make such systems effective, the development of a national farms database in advance, including geo-referencing, is highly desirable. This greatly enhances the power of the decision-support tools, which can then be applied as soon as a serious disease incursion has been detected. These tools include procedures to detect infected farms promptly, to protect as yet uninfected farms against exposure to virus and to manage control policies. Epidemiological evaluation and prediction tools have advanced particularly rapidly and can guide the choice of control policies during an outbreak. Integrated decision-support systems offer the best method of managing FMD outbreaks to minimise the cost and size of the epidemics.