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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Response Coordination

Secretary's Operation Center | Emergency Management Group | Interagency Coordination
Regional Coordination with State, Local and Tribal Agencies | International Coordination 

State, local, tribal and territorial agencies are responsible for assessing the situation, identifying and prioritizing requirements, while activating available resources and capabilities.  When requested, the Federal government may assist in these assessments. States provide the majority of the external assistance to communities but may seek State-to-State assistance through an Emergency Management Assistance Compact if existing mutual aid and assistance agreements are not sufficient.

The State serves as the primary interface with the Federal Government.  When it is clear that State capabilities will be exceeded, the Governor can request Federal assistance, including assistance under the Robert T. Stafford Act for public health and medical services.  HHS fulfills missions based upon State requests employing a scalable system that leverages the resources available within the Department, Operational/Staff Divisions, and from Emergency Support Function (ESF) 8: Public Health and Medical Services  partner agencies.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) issues  Mission Assignments to support state requests for Federal assistance.  HHS Mission Assignments are directed to the Emergency Management Group (EMG) through the Secretary's Operations Center (SOC). ASPR/Office of Preparedness and Emergency Operations (OPEO) then determines which resources within the department and external to the department are best suited to support the mission assignment.  The Department of Defense (DOD) is the only exception, in that the Department must receive its taskings directly through the Defense Coordinating Officer.

Secretary’s Operations Center

During emergencies, the SOC supports the incident management system responses for HHS, serving as a conduit for information to and from Federal agencies, HHS organizations, Emergency Support Function (ESF) 6, 8 and 14 partners, and the Incident Response Coordination Team (IRCT).  The EMG is responsible for compiling all relevant information during a response, as well as analyzing the information and disseminating the resulting final products to key personnel and decision makers.  To keep Federal partners informed of HHS actions, the Situational Report (SITREP) is the primary document produced within SOC.   This document is disseminated to Federal partners through the National Operation Center (NOC) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). 

The SOC serves as the communication hub through which all information exchanges are conducted.  During a response, conference/video calls are held to facilitate coordination and information sharing between headquarters and deployed personnel sources, such as the Regional Emergency Coordinators (RECs), National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) and U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS).

Emergency Management Group

The Emergency Management Group (EMG) provides real-time situational awareness, analysis, and monitoring of the public health, medical, and human services environment.  The EMG consists of liaisons from select OPDIVs/STAFFDIVs, interagency partners, and sections of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR).  Certain ASPR sections and OPDIVs/STAFFDIVs, including Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), National Guard Bureau, Department of Veterans Affairs, are involved in all EMG activations; however, the exact makeup of the EMG is situation dependent. For example, during the 2009 Presidential Inauguration, the EMG included personnel from state/local partners representing Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.

Interagency Coordination

As the HHS focal point, the EMG communicates routinely with the DHS National Operations Center (NOC), federal Emergency Operations Centers (EOC), and other federal partners on public health issues.  The SOC is responsible for dissemination of recurring situational reports, as well as tracking all deployed personnel and logistics caches. The SOC ensures a constant flow of accurate, precise and relevant information between all federal response personnel and decision makers.

Regional Coordination with State, Local and Tribal Agencies

As the lead for ESF 8, HHS is responsible for providing supplemental assistance to state, local, tribal and territorial governments in response to potential or actual public health medical disasters or emergencies, and natural disasters requiring a coordinated Federal response. In the event of a public health emergency, the SOC serves as the organizational hub of any required federal public health response under ESF 8.

RECs build relationships with State, tribal, and local officials as well as healthcare representatives in order to prepare an effective Federal emergency response and facilitate coordinated emergency preparedness and response activities.  RECs serve as the key bridge that facilitates the transmission of vital information between HHS headquarters and state/local authorities. During a response, RECs also serve as the lead personnel of the IRCT.

In addition, these functions are critical to coordinating a response within the region:

Regional Response Coordination Center (RRCC): The RRCC is activated at the FEMA Regional Office to coordinate Federal operations until a Joint Field Office is operational in the impacted State or Region. The RRCC establishes priorities for the staging and deploying of teams and commodities such as the IRCT.  The RRCC works closely with the REC and subsequently the EMG in developing coordinated priorities and objectives and is the major source of information during the initial phase of operations. The RRCC and EMG collectively coordinate the development of operational, strategic and contingency plans to ensure unity of efforts.

Joint Field Office (JFO): The JFO is the facility established by DHS/FEMA in the affected State for coordination of Federal assistance to the State and local jurisdictions. Once the JFO is operational, functions performed at the RRCC are transferred to the JFO. The JFO will serve as the primary source of information for the NRCC on the status of operations in the field.

ESF #8 Liaison Officer (LNO): The IRCT Leader is represented at the RRCC and JFO by one or more ESF #8 lead. The ESF #8 LNO to the RRCC works closely with the RRCC Operations Section Chief, other ESFs, the IRCT, and the affected State, local territory, or tribe officials to anticipate, clarify, validate, and process requests for Federal public health and medical assistance and has oversight of the ESF#8 LNOs in the field.  The RRCC and JFO ESF #8 LNOs transmit requests for assistance and other issues requiring resolution by ESF #8 to the EMG Manager via the IRCT for action.  The ESF#8 Lead and/or the IRCT coordinates all action request forms within the JFO, validates ESF#8 requests and coordinates other ESF functions when required to support the overall medical and public health mission.

International Coordination:

The SOC also functions as the National Focal Point (NFP) (define or link) for all public health related communication between the USG and foreign health organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan-American Health Organization. The EMG implements established protocols for information sharing with these international partners in order to ensure that all necessary parties maintain complete situational awareness pertaining to public health events which contain the potential to be of international significance.  The SOC links with counterpart Operations Centers at  the Department of State, Department of Defense and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) during public health emergencies with an international and domestic component to provide HHS expertise and support to U.S. foreign disaster response and humanitarian assistance. 

  • This page last reviewed: May 14, 2013