Introduction to Emergency Management
Mr. Jonathon Johnson
October 12, 2012
The Emergency Support Function #8 (ESF #8) from FEMA details support services related to public health and medical services. The primary agency in control of ESF #8 is the Department of Health and Human Services. They are responsible for providing assistance during “a public health and medical disaster, potential or actual incident requiring a coordinated Federal response, and/or during a developing potential health and medical emergency”, (2008, FEMA, p. 1). Assistance for medical needs covers mental and behavioral health as wells as substance abuse.
Assistance is provided in the following core function areas under ESF #8: assessment of public health/medical needs, health surveillance, medical care personnel, health/medical/veterinary equipment and supplies, patient evacuation, patient care, safety and security of drugs, biologics, and medical devices, blood and blood products, food safety and security, agriculture safety and security, all-hazard public health and medical consultation, technical assistance and support, behavioral health care, public health and medical information, vector control, potable water/wastewater and solid waste disposal, mass fatality management, victim identification, and decontaminating remains, and veterinary medical support (2008, FEMA, p. 1-2).
All Federal responses are handled by the Secretary of Health and Human Services through the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR). The Secretary is also in charge of the assets during a public health emergency with exception of the member of the Armed Forces. They are responsible for coordinating all preparedness, response, and recovery actions consistent with all internal policies and procedures of the Department of Health and Human Services. Once support agencies receive instructions from the Secretary, they are responsible for controlling their resources. The Emergency Management Group (EMG) is responsible for handling the ESF #8 response for the ASPR and must remain in constant contact with the National Operations Center (NOC).
All organizations involved in response operations must report public health and medical requirements to their appropriate representative. These representatives are stationed in the National Response Coordination Center (NRCC), the Regional Response Coordination Center (RRCC), and the Joint Field Office (JFO). A “Joint Information Center (JIC) will be established to coordinate incident-related public information”, (2008, FEMA, p. 2). The JIC is able to release information to the public in regards to general medical and public health response. For community issues, a recognized spokesperson will issue communications when possible.
Should there be a zoonotic disease outbreak, ESF #8 must coordinate with ESF #11 (Agriculture and Natural Resources). Public information may be released after consultation with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). During a oil, chemical, biological, or radiological environmental contamination, ESF #8 must coordinate with ESF #10 (Oil and Hazardous Materials) to release information.
When action is needed, the ASPR alerts HHS personnel. The ASPR may also request personnel for liaison communications at the HHS Headquarters command locations. The ESF #8 staff stationed in the RRCC and JFO “will conduct a risk analysis, evaluate, and determine the capability required to meet the mission objective and provide required public health and medical support” assistance to the appropriate parties (2008, FEMA, p. 3). During initial activation, HHS will coordinate conference calls with supporting agencies to discuss and determine response actions.
During the assessment process, HHS working with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), mobilizes and deploys ESF #8 personnel. During surveillance, HHS monitors public health using field studies...