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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

What is Science Preparedness?

Science preparedness is a collaborative effort to establish and sustain a scientific research framework that can enable emergency planners, responders and the whole community to better prepare for, respond to, and recover from major public health emergencies and disasters. Science preparedness is not a practice in and of itself. It is the result of the coordination and integration of sound scientific research, a comprehensive research infrastructure, leading public health practices, and all-hazard emergency management efforts.

The five core elements of science preparedness are:

  1. Coordination and Integration
  2. Scientific Research
  3. Research Infrastructure
  4. Public Health Practice
  5. Emergency Management

Why does it matter?

There is a finite window of opportunity to identify, collect and analyze critical and time-sensitive data and information needed to protect the health and safety of responders, communities and our Nation, both immediately and long term, achievable through the advancement of scientific research before, during and after a disaster or public health emergency.

Science Preparedness Scenarios

The following scenarios illustrate ways that science preparedness can improve health outcomes for individuals and their communities.

Major Chemical Spill

The Scenario: A major chemical spill threatens to contaminate your community’s source of drinking water. Responders act quickly to stop the spill, but questions regarding the contents of the spill, the severity of contamination, and the short and long term health affects remain unanswered.

Impacts of Science Preparedness: Science preparedness puts in place the scientific research response mechanisms needed to identify, characterize, and inform the response to complex environmental emergencies. In turn, public health and community leaders are better equipped with evidence-based information to make important short and long term decisions regarding community health and safety.

Large-Scale Hurricane

The Scenario: At the peak of summer a large scale hurricane cripples your community’s infrastructure leaving behind widespread power outages and flood-damaged roads. Hospitals, grocery stores and many other businesses struggle to find fuel to power generators. Individuals, families and workers in community shelters become restless and the resilience of your community is put to test.

Impacts of Science Preparedness: Science preparedness establishes and sustains a scientific research framework required to address short and long term community resilience. This is accomplished through preparedness, response and recovery scientific measures to collect critical and timely information for scientific analysis and evidence-based decision making.

Novel Disease Outbreak

The Scenario: A novel disease outbreak of unknown origin is detected in your community and is quickly spreading. Little is known about the disease threat and the public demands a rapid response from local, state and federal governments.

Impacts of Science Preparedness: Science preparedness creates an all-hazard capability to address complex scientific questions and concerns pertaining to public health emergencies by putting in place mechanisms to rapidly conduct scientific research and clinical trials on emerging infectious diseases, medical countermeasures, and other topics.

Watch, Listen, Learn

YouTube video icon:  What is Science Preparedness
YouTube Video:  Learning from Disasters
YouTube video embed:  Science Preparedness and Cascading Consequences

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  • This page last reviewed: May 29, 2015