Disaster Training and Response

From the standpoint of public health, a disaster is defined on the basis of its consequences on health and health services. A disaster is a serious disruption of the functioning of society, causing widespread human, material or environmental losses, that exceeds the local capacity to respond, and calls for external assistance. Natural and man-made disasters can occur without warning; preventing them from resulting in major public health emergencies requires careful planning.  Health Studies (HS) of CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH) helps prepare agencies to respond to disasters and minimize the effects of disasters on communities.

Disaster Epidemiology Training, Consultation, and Technical Assistance

HS provides consultation and technical assistance during a disaster response and disaster epidemiology training (mortality surveillance, morbidity surveillance, and CASPER) throughout the year. HS’s disaster preparation and response procedures have been used during a number of public health disaster responses. HS has provided technical assistance to states during hurricane season, the tsunami response in American Samoa in 2009, and the earthquake response in Haiti in 2010. HS has also strengthened CDC’s relationship with the American Red Cross (ARC) by providing assistance entering and analyzing ARC’s shelter data after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and helping to improve shelter surveillance. During emergency response, HS’s disaster experts lead the CDC’s Emergency Operations Center’s Epidemiology and Surveillance desk, coordinating the collection and analysis of health surveillance data. Most recently, HS fulfilled this position during the response to the earthquake in Haiti and the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. For detailed examples of HS disaster response activities, please click HERE.

Consultation and Technical Assistance

HS can provide expertise in disaster epidemiology to local, state, federal and international public health partners to help them respond to natural and man-made disasters. If you would like HS consultation or technical assistance, please contact Health Studies Branch  CASPER@cdc.gov.

Guidance for Emergency Managers for Identifying At-Risk Groups

At-risk groups, also referred to as socially vulnerable populations, require special attention in a disaster. During disasters, populations with higher levels of social vulnerability are more likely to be adversely affected. This HS guidance document, titled Planning for an Emergency: Strategies for Identifying and Engaging At-Risk Groups pdf icon[PDF – 12.2 MB], is designed specifically for emergency managers. The document describes a process that will help emergency managers identify at-risk groups in their communities. The information can help reduce vulnerabilities and enhance outcomes.

Disaster Epidemiology Training

HS provides disaster epidemiology training to state and local public health emergency response staff by request. The purpose of the trainings is to 1) increase emergency response capacity, 2) improve disaster epidemiology skills, and 3) share lessons learned. If you are a state or local health department and would like to be considered for training, please consult with your leadership and then contact Amy Schnall (770-488-3422, CASPER@cdc.gov). You may also download a Disaster Epidemiology Training Request form pdf icon[PDF – 458 KB].

CASPER Online Training Course (WB2390)

Disaster Epi Training Modules

In response to the need to strengthen disaster response capacity and improve skills in disaster-related morbidity and mortality surveillance and community needs assessment both domestically and internationally, the Health Studies Branch has developed disaster preparedness and response training course material. This material can be downloaded and adapted by epidemiologists, public health practitioners, country-specific resident advisers for Field Epidemiology and Training Programs (FETP), health educators, and others. The course has three modules and a final comprehensive capstone activity where learners apply the knowledge and skills learned in the course. After completing all three modules, the participant will have a better understanding of the disaster-related rapid needs assessments and surveillance necessary to support responses to disasters and other public health emergencies.

Download Facilitator’s Guide pdf icon[PDF – 2.6 MB]

Download Participant Workbook pdf icon[PDF – 2.4 MB]

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HS Disaster Response Activities

HS provides expertise in disaster epidemiology to local, state, federal and international public health partners to help them prepare for and respond to natural and man-made disasters. To do this, HS coordinates and conducts surveillance, rapid needs assessments, and epidemiologic studies after a disaster. Review HS Disaster Response Activities

CDC Related Resources

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Page last reviewed: May 8, 2018