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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Modernizing the National Disaster Medical System to Meet the Health Security Threats of the 21st Century

Author: Ron Miller, Acting Director for the National Disaster Medical System within the Emergency Management and Medical Operations Division at the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response
Published Date: 9/4/2018 4:03:00 PM
Category: Public Health Preparedness; National Health Security;

In 2017, our nation suffered three back-to-back hurricanes that caused catastrophic damage in Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. That experience highlighted the importance of the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) – a federally coordinated system that augments the Nation's medical response capability during times of disasters or public health emergencies. ASPR, the government agency overseeing NDMS, deployed more than 4,600 personnel and 944 tons of medical supplies and equipment to treat app  Read more…

BARDA and its partners bring new ammunition to the battle against superbugs

Author: Brian Tse, PhD, Project Officer, BARDA Antimicrobial Medical Countermeasures Branch, and Mark Albrecht, PhD, Acting Chief, BARDA Antibacterial Medical Countermeasures Branch
Published Date: 8/27/2018 5:41:00 PM
Category: Medical Countermeasures;

In 1954, Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin, began warning against the potential for bacteria to become resistant to the new antibiotic. Just over a decade later, in July 1968, physicians documented the first human case of a superbug known as MRSA, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Fast forward 50 years, and MRSA has become just one of many drug-resistant infections healthcare providers and patients battle every day.

Back in the 1950s and 60s, drug manufacturers were developing an array of new antibiotics so resistance did not seem im  Read more…

ASPR’s Vision for Building Readiness: Sustaining Robust and Reliable Public Health Security Capabilities

Author: Robert P. Kadlec, MD, MTM&H, MS, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
Published Date: 8/10/2018 12:54:00 PM
Category: Public Health Preparedness; National Health Security; Medical Countermeasures; Response & Recovery;

HHS’ Vision for Healthcare Preparedness is a multi-part blog series that describes ASPR’s four pillars to achieving national health security: providing strong leadership, building a Regional Disaster Health Response System, sustaining public health security capabilities, and advancing an innovative medical countermeasures enterprise. This blog focuses on sustaining public health security capabilities. Read the next post in the series here.

A catastrophic health emergency – whether n  Read more…

New Smallpox Antiviral Increases National Health Security

Author: Rick Bright, Director, and Julie Schafer, Acting Director of Strategy, both of ASPR’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), a component of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR)
Published Date: 7/13/2018 4:20:00 PM
Category: Medical Countermeasures; Innovations; Public Health Preparedness; National Health Security;

​​In the 20th century alone, smallpox deaths worldwide numbered in the hundreds of millions. Roughly one-third of people infected with the disease died, while survivors were often left with permanent scars or blindness. After an aggressive global vaccination program in the mid-1970s, the World Health Organization declared smallpox eradicated.

​​But smallpox remains a health security threat in the 21st century. Fears that undeclared stocks of the smallpox virus might exist and that they could be used as weapons of bioterrorism spurred the U.S. government’s Biomedical Advance  Read more…

From 1918 to 2018: BARDA’s Role in the Evolution of Pandemic Preparedness

Author: Rick Bright, Director, and Julie Schafer, Acting Director of Strategy, both of ASPR’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), a component of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR)
Published Date: 5/21/2018 4:56:00 PM
Category: Innovations; Public Health Preparedness; Observances; Medical Countermeasures; National Health Security;

BARDA and its industry partners have made tremendous strides to build better, faster, and more flexible vaccine technologies to enable the right vaccine to be where we need it, when we need it. Combating this age-old problem is an epic challenge, and there is still work to be done to speed availability of life-saving vaccines in a pandemic.

In September 1918, a doctor stationed at Camp Devens, a military base located near Boston, Massachusetts, wrote a letter to a colleague:

Read more…

EMS: A Critical Partner in Successful Community Disaster Planning and Response

Author: Richard Hunt, MD Senior Medical Advisor, National Health Care Preparedness Programs, ASPR and John Hick, MD, Deputy Chief EMS Medical Director, Hennepin County Medical Center
Published Date: 5/21/2018 11:43:00 AM
Category: Public Health Preparedness; Hospital Preparedness; National Health Security;

During EMS Week, we want to draw attention to the vital role EMS plays in disaster healthcare and salute our Emergency Medical Services colleagues nationwide. We know that across the country, our EMS colleagues work on the frontlines of health, providing lifesaving services every day, even on the worst days in your communities. EMS is the first point of contact with medical services for millions of Americans, and with every call EMS professionals put years of training and education to use to make a difference. Your care saves lives.

All too frequently, EMS must respond not j  Read more…

What’s in Your State’s Disaster Management Plan? 4 Ways to Incorporate Mental and Behavioral Health into Disaster Planning

Author: Caroline Willemin, MBA, Office of Policy and Planning, HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response and CDR Aimee Williams, DHSC, LCSW-C, BCD, United States Public Health Service, Office of Policy and Planning, HHS Office of the Asstant Secretary for Preparedness and Response
Published Date: 5/9/2018 2:13:00 PM
Category:

Last year was one for the record books: hurricanes, floods, severe cold, drought, and wildfires – totaling over $1 billion in climate- and weather-related damages. Hurricane Preparedness Week is a perfect time for states, tribal nations, and territories to start reviewing state and local disaster preparedness plans to ensure they are up-to-date and address all aspects of planning, response, and recovery. 

A recent analysi  Read more…

Healthcare Response to a No-notice Incident: Lessons Learned from Las Vegas Festival Shooting

Author: Melissa Harvey, RN, MSPH, Director of the Division of National Healthcare Preparedness Programs, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Published Date: 4/24/2018 3:48:00 PM
Category: Hospital Preparedness; Public Health Preparedness; National Health Security;

On October 1, 2017, during the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival on the Las Vegas Strip, a gunman opened fired from the 32nd floor of a nearby hotel on the crowd of concertgoers. He fired more than 1,100 rounds leaving 59 dead and 527 injured.

Recently, ASPR staff spoke with responding agencies from the Las Vegas shooting to help identify lessons learned that can help other communities, specifically members of the nation’s 476 health care c  Read more…

Hospital Preparedness Program: Celebrating 15 Years of Health Care Preparedness and Response

Author: Melissa Harvey, RN, MSPH, Director of the Division of National Healthcare Preparedness Programs, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Published Date: 4/16/2018 11:38:00 AM
Category: Hospital Preparedness; Public Health Preparedness; National Health Security;

Whether from devastating hurricanes, terrorist attacks, or deadly disease outbreaks, the United States regularly faces crises that threaten the health and safety of Americans. Saving lives during these events requires thorough planning and dedicated coordination to ensure the nation’s health care system is ready when disaster strikes.

Health care readiness is at the heart of ASPR’s Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP). As the only source of federal funding to prepare the nation’s mostly private healt  Read more…

Decontamination Decoded: Disrobing, Dry Wiping Removes 99% of Chemical Contaminants

Author: Judith Wolfe Laney, PhD, Chief of Chemical Medical Countermeasures, Division of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Countermeasures within BARDA at the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response
Published Date: 4/11/2018 9:31:00 AM
Category: Exercises & Trainings; Medical Countermeasures; Public Health Preparedness; Response & Recovery; Innovations;

Last month, a truck carrying 4,400 gallons of hydrochloric acid collided with a train in Centerville, PA. For several hours, a column of white vapor floated above the wreckage. Emergency responders acted quickly to evacuate residents in the area and clean up the spill.

On a daily basis, thousands of businesses use our nation’s roads and railways to transport hazardous chemicals used for industrial or household purposes. Whether a chemical is released by accident, such as the case in Centerville, or intentionally by rogue assailants, terrorist organizations, or non-state acto  Read more…

Returning to Readiness: Strengthening Psychological Resilience by Building Behavioral Health Coalitions

Author: CDR Aimee Williams, DHSC, LCSW-C, BCD, PhD, United States Public Health Service, Office of Policy and Planning, HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response and Frankie Catalfumo, MPH, Jr. Management Analyst, Aveshka Inc. in service of the Office of Policy and Planning, HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response
Published Date: 3/29/2018 9:31:00 AM
Category: Response & Recovery; Public Health Preparedness;

The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was one of the most destructive in recent history. During the recovery phase of a disaster, all impacted areas strive to stabilize, rebuild, recover, and be ready for the next emergency. Returning to readiness is a slow pivot and a relentless fight to re-establish broad public health and medical care services. The challenges and issues following a large-scale disaster are often too complex for any one agency or organization to address. Assembling a coalition of community stakeholders can be an effective strategy to determine what health care suppo  Read more…

Texas Moves Full-Speed Ahead to Implement Health and Social Service Projects to Improve Resilience and Build Sustainability

Author: C. Kaleinani Lau, MPH, Field Coordinator, Health and Social Services Recovery Support Function (RSF), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and Public Health Analyst, Health Resources and Services Administration, Bureau of Primary Health Care
Published Date: 3/19/2018 4:48:00 PM
Category: National Health Security; Public Health Preparedness; Response & Recovery;

More than six months after Hurricane Harvey made landfall, Texas is still recovering. But, with so many people and organizations in need of help, where is the best way for the state of Texas and its partners to focus their health and social services recovery efforts?

Six teams of recovery specialists, led by the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, worked with representatives from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and the Texas Department of State Health Services to identify projects as a part of the Read more…

Fighting microscopic threats through international collaboration: Health ministers use lessons learned from the 1918 influenza pandemic to strengthen pandemic preparedness and global health security

Author: Division of International Heath Security
Published Date: 3/19/2018 4:37:00 PM
Category: National Health Security; Observances; Public Health Preparedness; Response & Recovery;

One hundred years ago, the 1918 influenza pandemic caused massive devastation, ultimately infecting over 500 million people and killing between 50 and 100 million individuals worldwide. During recent outbreaks of influenza, Ebola, and other emerging infectious diseases, we have learned how critical collaboration among countries and international organizations is for an expedited and more effective response. Working together with our partners to strengthen global health security is crucial to protect Americans from pandemics and other health security threats despite whether they sta  Read more…

Lessons from Fukushima: New guide provides answers to save lives and improve emergency medical response

Author: John F. Koerner, MPH, CIH, Senior Special Advisor - Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, High-Yield Explosive (CBRNE) Science and Operations, HHS ASPR Immediate Office
Published Date: 3/12/2018 2:22:00 PM
Category: Public Health Preparedness; Innovations; Exercises & Trainings; Hospital Preparedness; National Health Security; Response & Recovery;

Quick questions: A nuclear incident has occurred in your community and people are going to come to you for help. Do you know which medical issues you should focus on first? Or which steps need to be taken immediately after an incident to best protect the public? Or what resources might be available to help?

Before you answer “no” to any of those questions, download a copy of the newly released Decision Maker’s Guide: Medical Planning and Response for a Nuclear Detonation.

An e  Read more…

Aging and Disability Task Force: An Access and Functional Needs Approach to Addressing the Unmet Disaster Needs Following Hurricanes Irma and Maria

Author: Cheryl A. Levine, Ph.D., Senior Policy Analyst & Team Lead for At-Risk Individuals; Jose Velasco, MSW, Public Health Analyst for At-Risk Individuals; and Amit Zigelman, MPH, Jr. Management Analyst, Aveshka, Inc. in support of the ASPR Division for At-Risk Individuals, Behavioral Health & Community Resilience
Published Date: 2/21/2018 4:42:00 PM
Category: Response & Recovery; Public Health Preparedness; Innovations;

The recent impacts of Hurricanes Irma and Maria left Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) in complete devastation. Buildings and homes were destroyed. Hospitals, dialysis centers, and pharmacies that weren’t destroyed were closed due to water and wind damage or a lack of electricity. Transportation services were lacking or, in some areas, non-existent. These issues affected everyone; however, people with access and functional needs – including older adults and people with disabilities – were particularly vulnerable in the hurricanes’ aftermath.

In response, the Off  Read more…

ASPR’s New Vision for a Regional Disaster Health Response System Will Help Prepare Nation for 21st Century Health Security Threats

Author: Robert Kadlec, MD, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness & Response, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Published Date: 2/15/2018 5:45:00 PM
Category: Public Health Preparedness; National Health Security;

Early this week, I had the opportunity to discuss with colleagues at the University of Maryland Medical Center-Shock Trauma the concept of a regional disaster health response system that is capable of responding more effectively and efficiently to the ever-increasing array of 21st century health security threats.

  Read more…

“One Team. One Mission. A Lot of Perseverance and Ingenuity” Keeps One HHS Hurricane Recovery Specialist Focused and Motivated to Serve

Author: C. Kaleinani Lau, MPH, Recovery Coordination Analyst, HSS RSF, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Public Health Analyst, Health Resources and Services Administration, Bureau of Primary Health Care
Published Date: 2/13/2018 11:47:00 AM
Category: Response & Recovery;

Greetings from Puerto Rico! I arrived on the island more than two months ago – my first deployment as part of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) Health and Social Services (HSS) Recovery Support Function (RSF) team. The team consists of experts from different agencies within HHS working together for a common purpose: to restore and improve Puerto Rico’s health and social services. Being here is inspiring, and I am glad I have the opportunity to serve on this mission.

Working To  Read more…

Recovering from a Major Disaster is a Marathon, Not a Sprint: Lessons Learned from One Texas Family

Author: HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response
Published Date: 2/9/2018 4:50:00 PM
Category: Response & Recovery;

Disasters upend the lives of countless families – they not only destroy homes, businesses, schools, and roads, but they also can throw disaster survivor’s lives into chaos. Local leaders are suddenly confronted with decisions on a scale they’ve never encountered before and families must quickly learn how to support themselves and those who rely on them.

When homes are destroyed and the systems that people depend on every day – from water and sewer to roads and schools – are not functioning, it can be difficult if not impossible for some people to recover. When community and  Read more…

Inside the Texas Catastrophic Medical Operations Center: An Interview with Lori Upton

Author: by Lori Upton, RN, BSN, MS, CEM, Director of Preparedness, Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council.
Published Date: 1/31/2018 10:30:00 AM
Category: Hospital Preparedness; Response & Recovery; Public Health Preparedness;

During Hurricane Harvey, SETRAC’s Catastrophic Medical Operations Center, or CMOC, acted as a clearinghouse – overseeing information management, brokering requests for assistance and supplies, coordinating patient movement, and providing situational awareness across emergency response disciplines. We spoke with Upton to learn more about the CMOC’s structure and day-to-day functions.

Q: How many members are in the Catastrophic Medical Operations Center?
A: A fully staffed CMOC has 13 members. During Harvey we expanded the CMOC to   Read more…

Responding to Harvey: How a Houston-area Healthcare Coalition Modeled Success

Author: Dan Hanfling, Special Advisor, Hospital Preparedness Program, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response
Published Date: 1/31/2018 10:28:00 AM
Category: Public Health Preparedness; Hospital Preparedness;

On Aug. 27, 2017, at the height of Hurricane Harvey’s catastrophic winds and rain, a 54-year-old man with a serious head injury arrived at the Harris Health System’s Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) Hospital Emergency Department in Houston, Texas. As a Level III trauma center, the hospital needed additional personnel and resources to treat the man; he needed to be transported to a Level I trauma center for neurosurgery.

Hospital officials asked for transport assistance, but the weather conditions were so severe that roads were impassable and helicopter transports were grounded. A col  Read more…

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