CDC Emergency Operations Center (EOC)

Emergency Operations Center

When CDC gets the call to assist in a public health emergency, the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is ready to respond.

An EOC brings together highly trained experts and state-of-the-art technology to coordinate resources, information, and crisis and emergency risk communication to strengthen our nation’s ability to detect and respond to public health threats.

The EOC is managed by the Office of Readiness and Response’s (ORR) Division of Emergency Operations (DEO).

How we decide when to activate

Even when there is no specific public health threat, the EOC has dedicated staff monitoring information, helping to keep us safe 24/7.

The EOC may be notified about potential public health threats through its watch desk, which fields calls from the public, clinicians, and state and local authorities. Notification may also come via public health partner briefings, field operations intelligence, or a worldwide declaration of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

When DEO receives information about a potentially widespread threat—such as an increase in the incidence of a virus—a team of subject matter experts within DEO and across CDC gather to decide whether to activate the Incident Management System (IMS).

The team’s assessment is reported to the director of CPR, who then provides recommendations for action to the CDC director.

During an Emergency

During public health emergencies, staff in the CDC EOC:

  • Deploys scientific experts.
  • Coordinates delivery of supplies and equipment to the incident site.
  • Monitors response activities.
  • Provides resources to state and local public health departments.

The EOC has responded to more than 60 public health threats, including natural disasters (e.g., hurricanes), foodborne disease outbreaks, environmental emergencies (e.g., Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill), and disease outbreaks (e.g., Ebola, Zika virus, and COVID-19).

In addition, the IMS may activate 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.

After an Emergency

Emergency response is a continuous process of planning, training, exercising, and evaluating.

After an event or an incident, 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. ORR manages development of these reports.

Fast Facts
  • The CDC EOC is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
  • The 24,000-square-foot facility seats up to 230 people at a time.
  • The IMS has been activated continuously since December 2011, and, for the first time in its history, was activated for four concurrent public health emergencies in February and March 2016.
  • Between September 2001 and March 2020, CDC activated its IMS for more than 60 responses.
  • Approximately 4,000 CDC staff directly participated in the 2014 Ebola outbreak response, making it the largest response in CDC’s history.
  • Clinicians, state, and local health agencies, and the general public report potential public health threats to CDC through the EOC.
  • The Joint Information Center in the EOC coordinates risk communication strategy to develop messages that are timely, accurate, consistent, and actionable.
  • In 2018, CDC was reaccredited by the Emergency Management Accreditation Program for excellence in emergency management. Five years after initial accreditation, the agency remains the first federal public health organization to attain full accreditation.