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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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Resolving to Be Ready to Protect Critical Infrastructure

Author: Laura Kwinn Wolf, Ph.D., Director, ASPR Division of Critical Infrastructure Protection
Published Date: 1/3/2020 11:38:00 AM
Category: Public Health Preparedness; National Health Security;


Three Ways for Public Health and Medical Professionals to Enhance Preparedness


As we look forward into 2020, many of us are taking a moment to pause and consider what is coming in the next year. If you are a health care or public health professional, there is a very real chance you could be called on to respond to a disaster or emergency. In 2019, the Federal Emergency Management Agency issued one hundred disaster declarations across the 48 continental United States and territories. If a disaster strikes in your community, are you ready to respond?

When disaster strikes, critical infrastructure failures – from loss of power and water to failures of IT infrastructure and systems – can follow. There are actions you can take now that will help you respond more effectively in an emergency. By evaluating your facility’s risk and building strong partnerships now,you can be better prepared. ASPR’s Division of Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) has built tools, resources, and partnerships to help you achieve all of these goals.


Build Partnerships between Health Care and Public Health

This year, connect with other professionals to enhance your health care facility or public health department’s preparedness. Consider joining the Healthcare and Public Health (HPH) Sector Partnership, a network that works together to protect the essential goods, services, and functions of healthcare and public health.

In 2019, members of this partnership coordinated and shared information before, during, and after the earthquakes in Southern California, Hurricane Dorian, wildfires with related power outages in California, and the Urgent/11 cybersecurity attacks. Through the partnership, private sector partners were able to identify critical areas of resource needs for public prioritization and private to private coordination. CIP, which manages the HPH Sector Partnership, facilitated the timely exchange of information for the public and private partners.

To help prepare for the next disaster, the CIP team has worked with public and private partners across the HPH Sector Partnership to help them enhance and refresh their emergency response skills, provide unique training experiences, and validate information sharing practices. Using information, resources, and partners from these events, HPH Sector Partnership conducted a pandemic flu focused exercise in advance of this year’s National Level Exercise. These projects and events help build all-hazards preparedness across the HPH Sector.

If you are interested in joining the HPH Sector Partnership, email the CIP team at cip@hhs.gov to learn more and get involved.


Evaluate Risks and Plan for the Next Disaster

Many people throughout your organization probably know a lot about the different risks your hospital or health care facility faces, but it can be hard to get an accurate picture of biggest risks. In 2020, resolve to connect those dots.

If your facility hasn’t conducted a recent risk assessment, check out the Risk Identification and Site Criticality (RISC) Toolkit. The RISC Toolkit is an objective, data-driven all-hazards risk assessment tool that public and private organizations within the HPH Sector can use to inform emergency preparedness planning, risk management activities, and resource investments, and it can provide your team with a mechanism to promote connections between a facility’s emergency managers and its IT security staff. In fact, the RISC Toolkit was recognized by FEMA in the 2019 National Preparedness Report for connecting cybersecurity and all-hazards risks for a comprehensive assessment.

To enhance response and recovery operations, the HPH Sector Partnership developed the “Pilot Healthcare and Public Health Sector Partnership Response Playbook.” The playbook outlined partnership response roles and responsibilities, information sharing, and coordination mechanisms for all-hazards response situations. It represents the first time response procedures for HPH Sector members were outlined in an official document. Having formally outlined response roles and responsibilities led to smooth and well-coordinated responses in 2019.


Stay Informed Before, During, and After an Emergency

To get ready to respond, you need an understanding of both evolving threats and issues as well as lessons learned and best practices. To help you stay up-to-date, the CIP team has developed a series of resources.

  • Healthcare and Public Health Sector Highlights Listservs: To learn more about topics in critical infrastructure protection, subscribe to our mailing lists. These bulletins help educate our Sector partners on reports, resources, tools, and upcoming events dealing with a variety of health critical infrastructure protection-related topics including healthcare preparedness, resilience, and response; cybersecurity; the healthcare supply chain; infectious diseases; and partnership activities.

  • Building Resilient Health Infrastructure with ASPR Podcast: You can even stay up-to-date on issues in critical infrastructure protection while you are at the gym, in the car, or just about anywhere with our new podcast. Subscribe to our podcast to find out how your hospital or healthcare facility can plan to protect critical infrastructure so you are ready to ensure continuity of care in a disaster.

Preparing for disasters can help your hospital, health care facility, health care coalition, or public health department protect health and save lives when disaster strikes. As you are considering which activities are worth your time and effort in the coming year, take a moment to consider the potential benefits of preparedness, resolve to be ready to face a disaster or emergency, and take action to protect the people who rely on you during disasters and every day.


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