Emergency Preparedness and Response: Program Description

Program Description

NIOSH Emergency Preparedness and Response (EPR) program integrates occupational safety and health into emergency responses during planning and preparedness activities to protect response and recovery workers. The Emergency Preparedness and Response Office (EPRO) manages much of this work and coordinates with other NIOSH programs that conduct research in this area. EPRO functions as the coordination point for all NIOSH emergency preparedness and response activities and provides occupational safety and health assistance during emergencies. The EPRO staff is educated and experienced in the fields of industrial hygiene, environmental health, epidemiology, and emergency response.

The mission of NIOSH EPRO is to protect the health and safety of emergency response providers and recovery workers, through the advancement of research and collaborations, to prevent diseases, injuries, and fatalities in anticipation of, and during responses to natural and man-made disasters and novel emergent events.

Specifically, EPRO:

Provides Guidance and Recommendations
EPRO provides safety and health guidance and recommendations during emergencies. During the 2014 Ebola epidemic, EPRO coordinated the development of over 25 educational and communication products that contained recommendations and information to protect workers. For the 2018 Hurricane Florence, EPRO issued co-branded United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)/NIOSH Interim Guidance for Protecting Workers from Livestock and Poultry Wastewater and Sludge During and After Floods.

Supports CDC Emergency Response Efforts
During CDC emergency responses, EPRO organizes NIOSH personnel deployments and provides technical assistance. In addition, EPRO leads the Worker Safety and Health Team within the CDC’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC). Over the years, EPRO has participated in a variety of responses including Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, Harvey and Irma, 2011 Japan Earthquake, Deepwater Horizon, H1N1 influenza pandemic, 2015 and 2018 Ebola outbreaks and the Zika virus outbreak. EPRO coordinated 207 NIOSH staff supporting the 2015 Ebola response alone, including staff deployed domestically to 21 states and internationally to 5 countries.

Participates in Response Planning, Training, and Exercises
EPRO participates in response planning activities, trainings, and exercises at the local, state, national, and international levels. These activities ensure the timely identification of health hazards associated with emergency responders and the implementation of adequate protection measures to protect their health and safety. By participating in these activities, EPRO supports increased internal and stakeholder preparedness while building relationships with fellow members of the response community.

Promotes Responder Health and Safety through the Emergency Responder Health Monitoring and Surveillance (ERHMSTM) Program
EPRO developed the ERHMSTM program after the 2001 9-11 attacks demonstrated the need to better track the health and safety of emergency responders throughout the pre-deployment, deployment, and post-deployment phases of an incident.  EPRO promotes the ERHMSTM program through in-person and on-line trainings. EPRO also developed and released a free software tool, ERHMS Info ManagerTM, that allows response organizations or leadership to track health and safety data on all individuals participating in an incident and to ultimately  implement the ERHMSTM framework within their respective organizations.

Conducts Research through the Disaster Science Responder Research (DSRR) Program
EPRO established the DSRR program to identify research gaps and to promote quality research in disaster science. The goal of DSRR is to develop and implement a framework to allow for timely occupational health and safety research, without interfering with responses NIOSH EPRO also seeks to address occupational safety and health gaps identified in past responses and initiate research to address them.

Page last reviewed: October 2, 2019