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One of the best parts of my job is the opportunity to learn from a wide range of experiences. We have an obligation to not only respond to emergencies today, but to prepare for tomorrow by learning from the past. Our work extends to households affected by disease, communities ravaged by disasters, and U.S. territories battling new and changing threats. In fact, all over the world – we try to get ahead of, and manage, complex responses that touch many lives through ever changing circumstances. In an ideal world the health in every community would be at a level that would make recovery and reliance easier. The reality is that emergencies happen in all kinds of environments and populations.
The Public Health Preparedness and Response National Snapshot is our annual report that gives us an opportunity to showcase the work that we and our state partners do. The report reminds us that no matter how big the emergency, we need to work together to respond to the best of our ability—with the cards we are dealt.
Here are 10 ways CDC’s Office of Public Health Preparedness and Emergency Response worked to keep people safer in 2016 that can inform our work going forward.
1) Four Responses at Once: An Unprecedented Challenge
CDC experts continue to provide 24/7 monitoring, staffing, resources, and coordination in response to natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and infectious disease threats. In early 2016, CDC managed four public health emergencies at the same time through our Emergency Operations Center :
- Flint, Michigan, Water Quality
- Zika Virus
- Polio Eradication
See us in action:
- Watch this video to learn how the CDC Emergency Operations Center (EOC) works
- Learn more about our EOC
- See how we support development of other EOCs
CDC scientists and responders were activated in CDC’s Emergency Operations Center, where they combed through research, developed and distributed diagnostic tests, and provided on-the-ground mosquito control and education to protect people at higher risk for the virus, including pregnant women and infants.
- See what CDC is doing to fight Zika virus
- Learn how samples of Zika are brought into U.S. labs for research
- Read about how New York used lessons learned from West Nile to combat Zika
- Discover the unique role of the Strategic National Stockpile in Zika prevention
- Here are 5 things you really need to know about Zika
3) Right Resources, Right Place, Right Time
CDC’s Strategic National Stockpile is ready to send critical medical supplies quickly to where they are needed most to save lives. The stockpile is the nation’s largest supply of life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical supplies that can be used in a public health emergency if local supplies run out.
Last year, we helped conduct 18 full-scale exercises and provided training for 2,232 federal and state, local, tribal, and territorial emergency responders to ensure that systems for delivering medicines are functioning well before they are needed in an actual emergency. We continue to work with our federal, state, local, and commercial partners to make sure every step of the medical supply chain – from manufacture to delivery – is coordinated.
- See how the stockpile protects our nation’s health
- Learn how stockpile exercises help states prepare for bioterrorist threats
- View a timeline of stockpile responses
4) State and Local Readiness
CDC connects with state and local partners to provide support and guidance, helping every community get ready to handle emergencies like floods, hurricanes, wildfires, or disease outbreaks.
This year, we created a new process to evaluate how well state and local jurisdictions can plan and execute a large-scale response requiring the rapid distribution of critical medicines and supplies. Through this program, we conducted assessments of 487 state and local public health departments. The information from these assessments will be used to help improve the ability to get emergency supplies quickly to those who need them most.
5) Cutting-Edge Science to Find and Stop Disease
To protect lifesaving research, CDC experts in biosafety and biosecurity conducted approximately 200 laboratory inspections and thousands of assessments of those who handle dangerous select agents and toxins like anthrax, plague, and ricin to keep these materials safe, secure, and out of the hands of those who might misuse them.
CDC’s Laboratory Response Network (LRN)l also develops and deploys tests to combat our country’s most pressing infectious and non-infectious health issues, from Ebola to Zika virus to opioid overdose. The network connects over 150 labs to respond quickly to high priority public health emergencies.
- Learn what we do to safeguard research with deadly pathogens and poisons
- See how a strong network of labs can make a difference
6) Protecting Our Most Vulnerable
CDC supports efforts all across the country to help those who may not be able to help themselves when a crisis strikes. Some populations, like children, older adults, and others with functional and access needs may need extra help during and after an emergency.
From planning for the 69 million children who may be in school when disaster strikes to the millions of Americans who need to make sure prescriptions are filled, medical equipment is working, and help arrives even if power is out and roads are blocked, it’s up to us to protect our most vulnerable in emergencies.
- Discover how a dog is teaching children in Kansas to get a kit, make a plan, and be informed
- Read the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) on School Preparedness Plans
- Learn about an innovative program to help people with disabilities stay safe in emergencies
7) Emergency Leaders: The Future of Incident Response
When every minute counts, we need people who have the knowledge to step in and take immediate action. Learning and using a common framework like the CDC Incident Management System helps responders “speak the same language” during an event and work more seamlessly together.
CDC experts train leaders from around the world—25 countries in 2016—through an innovative, four-month fellowship based at our Atlanta headquarters. Lessons learned from this course were put to work immediately to head off an outbreak of H5N1 influenza in Cameroon.
- Learn more about how CDC trains future leaders from across the globe
8) The Power of Preparedness: National Preparedness Month
Throughout September, CDC and more than 3,000 organizations—national, regional, and local governments, as well as private and public organizations— supported emergency preparedness efforts and encouraged Americans to take action.
The theme for National Preparedness Month 2016 was “The Power of Preparedness.” During our 2016 campaign , we recognized the successes of countries and cities who have seen the direct benefits of being prepared, looked at innovative programs to help children and people with disabilities get ready for emergencies, and provided tips for home and family on making emergency kits.
- Learn more about National Preparedness Month
- Discover why the U.S. and the whole world should prepare now
- Read the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) on the Power of Preparedness
9) Health Security: How is the U.S. Doing?
As part of the Global Health Security Agenda, teams of international experts travel to countries to report on how well public health systems are working to prevent, detect, and respond to outbreaks. In May, a team made a five-day visit to the U.S. to look at how well we’re doing.
In the final report, the assessment team concluded that, “the U.S. has extensive and effective systems to reduce the risks and impacts of major public health emergencies, and actively participates in the global health security system.” They recognized the high level of scientific expertise within CDC and other federal agencies, and the excellent reporting mechanisms managed by the federal government.
- Learn more about the report on U.S. Health Security
- See how the Global Health Security Agenda helps countries stop outbreaks and save lives
10) Helping YOU Make a Difference
Get a flu shot. Wash your hands. Make a kit. Be careful in winter weather. Prepare for your holidays. Be aware of natural disasters or circulating illnesses that may affect you or those you care about. There are many ways to prepare, and in 2016 we provided the latest science and information to empower every one of us to take action.
Every person needs knowledge to prepare their home, family, and community against disease or disaster before an emergency strikes. Whether it’s how to clean mold from a flooded home, how to wash your hands the right way, or how to use your brain in emergencies, our timely tips and advice put the power of preparedness in your hands. From the hidden dangers of hurricanes to the heartbreaking dangers of flu, there are steps we can all take to stay safe every day as we work toward a healthy and protected future.
For more ways we are helping protect America’s health, check out the new National Preparedness Snapshot.
To find out more about the issues and why this work matters, visit our website.