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CDC Emergency Operations Center (EOC)

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When a disaster occurs, CDC must respond effectively to support national and international public health emergency response partners. A critical component of CDC's work during a public health emergency is to coordinate response activities and provide resources to state and local public health departments.

During the terrorist attacks of 2001, CDC headquarters for response activities consisted of available conference rooms with limited equipment. In 2003, CDC established a dedicated, state-of-the-art Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to serve as CDC's command center for monitoring and coordinating CDC's emergency response activities to public health threats in the United States and abroad. Staffed around-the-clock, the EOC serves as CDC's central point of contact for reporting public health threats and supports the Secretary's Operations Center of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The EOC is managed by CDC’s Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, Division of Emergency Operations.

EOC Functions

Emergency Operations Center

The EOC brings together scientists from across CDC to analyze, validate, and efficiently exchange information during a public health emergency and connect with emergency response partners. When activated for a response, the EOC can accommodate up to 230 personnel per 8-hour shift to handle situations ranging from local interests to worldwide incidents.

The EOC coordinates the deployment of CDC staff and the procurement and management of all equipment and supplies that CDC responders may need during their deployment.

In addition, the EOC has the ability to rapidly transport life-supporting medications, samples and specimens, and personnel anywhere in the world around the clock within two hours of notification for domestic missions and six hours for international missions.

A range of responses. Since its inception in September 2001, the EOC has responded to more than 50 public health threats, including hurricanes, food borne disease outbreaks, the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, and the Haiti cholera outbreak. In addition to emergencies, the EOC may also be activated for planned events (e.g., presidential inaugurations and Olympics taking place in the U.S.) to monitor for incidents that may affect the public's health. See comprehensive list of public health responses supported by the EOC since 2001.

Exercises. In addition to responding to real world incidents, the EOC also conducts exercises to evaluate its ability to respond rapidly and effectively to potential public health emergencies. Examples of exercises include simulated incidents such as hurricanes, the detonation of radiological dispersal devices (i.e., dirty bombs), and an outbreak of pandemic influenza.

EOC Response Operations

Director's Briefing

When the EOC receives information about an incident with potential for adverse effects to the public's health, a preliminary assessment team of subject matter experts from across CDC convene to recommend the scope of the response. The team's assessment is reported to the Director of CDC's Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, who then advises the CDC Director of the situation and provides recommendations for action, including a request for activation of the EOC.

A common response system. CDC uses the Incident Management System (IMS) to manage responses. IMS is based on the Incident Command System and the National Incident Management System, both of which are standardized emergency response operating systems used around the country. CDC and all 50 states have trained public health officials on their specific roles and responsibilities during an emergency as outlined by Incident Command System. This training helps ensure that CDC field response teams operate effectively as part of the state or local response structure.

Emergency communication. During public health emergencies, the EOC stands up the Joint Information Center (JIC). The JIC is staffed by trained emergency risk communicators as well as communication personnel from across CDC who provide additional expertise. The JIC coordinates risk communication strategy to guide the development of messages that are timely, accurate, consistent and actionable; grounded in sound public health and risk-communication science; and written appropriately for the target audience.

Evaluating responses. After an exercise or real world response, CDC assesses what worked well, what could be improved, and prepares after action reports and improvement plans. Included in these reports are assessments of how well the response operations met objectives, recommendations for correcting gaps or weaknesses, and plans for improving response operations. CDC's Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response manages the development of these reports.

CDC's Role in Emergencies

Photo of National Response Plan (NRP) cover

All response to emergencies begins at the local level; state and local governments have primary responsibility for incident response. If an event or incident exceeds their capabilities, federal assistance can be provided in accordance with the National Response Framework and the Stafford Act. More information on CDC’s role.



 
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