Ready to Respond to Public Health Emergencies

CDC’s Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) responders

State and local health departments must stand ready to handle many different types of emergencies that threaten the health and safety of families, communities, and the nation. Learn how the Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) program helps communities respond to threats.

Public health emergencies occur every day across the United States. Tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, floods, infectious disease outbreaks, terrorist attacks, and other emergencies have all occurred in the United States within the past few years and will happen again.

Communities must be ready in the event of a public health emergency – both those they expect and those that come without warning. The terrorist and anthrax attacks of 2001 clearly demonstrated that states need expertise and resources in place before disaster strikes. Since 9/11, CDC’s Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) program has worked with states, cities, and territories to prepare and plan for emergencies.

Six Domains of Preparedness

The PHEP program enables public health departments to lead or support public health responses, saving lives when an emergency occurs. View large graphic and download PDF.

The PHEP program provides:

  • Guidance: Annual evidence-based guidance to ensure state, local, tribal, and territorial jurisdictions have the most current information to better protect their communities
  • Technical Assistance: Operational know-how to ensure health departments are ready to respond
  • Evaluation: Measurement and evaluation of state and local capabilities to prepare for any public health emergency

Why Preparedness Matters

Emergency preparedness is critical for the safety of people, communities, and the nation. Planning and exercising plans helps ensure that health departments are ready to respond and save lives when emergencies occur.

Preparedness in Action

Since 2002, the PHEP program has provided support to 50 states, four cities, and eight territorial health departments across the nation to protect communities and save lives.

While we all hope that emergencies never occur, they are inevitable and the true test of any preparedness system. For example, in late 2016 and early 2017, Washington experienced an outbreak of mumps that affected more than 800 people of all ages. During this outbreak, the state and local health departments in Washington investigated new cases, advised local school districts on prevention measures, and developed culturally appropriate risk communication materials. Due to a robust preparedness system and the efforts of the health department staff and partners, approximately 5,000 more people were vaccinated for measles, mumps, and rubella than in previous years to prevent further spread of disease.

How You Can Help

Community members play a key role in helping educate others about the importance of preparedness. Check out the Stories from the Field to learn more about how the PHEP program has equipped jurisdictions to prepare for, respond to, and recover from public health emergencies. Also, be sure to share the educational resources available on the State and Local Readiness website and help spread the word.