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Spotlight on a CDC-Funded Preparedness and Emergency Response Learning Center (PERLC)

A National Network of Learning Centers

CDC provides funding for 14 Preparedness and Emergency Response Learning Centers (PERLC) across the US. These centers collaborate across regional networks to meet unique workforce development needs in the areas of preparedness and response—specialized training and education needs of the U.S. public health workforce. Each PERLC provides core competency-based training to state, local, and tribal public health authorities within defined service areas and are known for their unique capacity to adapt and tailor preparedness training to meet the needs of their public health practice community.

How One PERLC Fosters Collaboration to Improve Training

Northwest Center for Public Health Practice logoThe Northwest Preparedness and Emergency Response Learning Center (NWPERLC), housed within the Northwest Center for Public Health Practice (NWCPHP), is part of the University of Washington School of Public Health. NWCPHP provides training, research, evaluation, and communication services to state, local, and tribal public health organizations across a six-state region in the Pacific Northwest. Associate Director of NWCPHP, Luann D’Ambrosio, says they are committed to “breaking down silos” and sharing information across their service areas. This robust sharing of ideas, innovations, and lessons learned strengthen the preparedness capacity of the public health organizations in the Northwest region. It is this cross-pollination of ideas that has informed their preparedness and emergency response training on the hot topic of social media.

A Hurricane Brings Insight

lady using smartphoneDuring Hurricane Irene in 2011, NWCPHP’s Communications and Marketing Manager Missie Thurston, found herself stranded in the Boston Airport. With power and phone lines down, the only way Missie could stay in touch with her family and follow what was happening in her home state of Vermont was through Facebook and Twitter. At that moment she realized how important the effective use of social media could be to public health during emergency situations. “I had been teaching social media techniques to public health professionals for a few years, focusing on strategy, policy, and logistics” says Missie. “I realized that I need to also teach that if it’s an emergency situation, public health needs to use it effectively.” When Missie made it back to Seattle, she shared her experience through a news feature on their website.

Putting it into Practice

Northwest Center for Public Health Practice trainingMissie’s article generated a lot of interest from public health professionals across the NWPERLC region, with requests for training on how to effectively use social media during emergencies to help communicate important information. The education specialists at NWCPHP quickly got to work creating training to meet the demands of their stakeholders. Since 2011, NWCPHP has provided social media trainings for a number of health departments across the region and has workshops planned in Washington and Montana this fall. Additionally, NWCPHP:

These training resources are available at no cost to public health professionals across their six-state region as well as those across the US public health workforce.

For other stories about PERLC Successes visit:

Note: This month marks the introduction of a new kind of Spotlight featuring people, tools, or systems that support and advance learning for state, tribal, local, and territorial (STLT) public health professionals. Periodically, the CDC Learning Connection will Spotlight these innovative public health training activities. To submit ideas on future topics contact

  • Page last reviewed: September 1, 2013
  • Page last updated: September 1, 2013
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