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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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Partnering with the Community to Support the NATO Summit

Author: Taylor, Shhonn (HHS/ASPR/COO)
Published Date: 7/18/2012 11:07:00 PM
Category: Exercises & Trainings;

A few weeks ago, the United States made history by hosting a NATO Summit in a U.S. city other than the nation’s capitol. Having this meeting in the United States is fairly unusual in itself; these international meetings rotate among NATO countries so are usually in Europe somewhere. As a National Security Special Event for the United States, the summit required an enormous mobilization of security and response resources. While the City of Chicago is one of the most capable and best prepared in the country, this type of event requires local, state and federal agencies to pull together as partners to cover a wide range of issues from physical security to health security and to establish contingency plans for every possible risk.

The city has a very competent health department emergency response program. They have training programs and assets including medicines and medical equipment and supplies to deal with a wide variety of public health and medical issues. They also have strong partnerships with private medical assets (hospitals and others) throughout the city. Given the nature of this event and possible threats, however, the city and the U.S. Secret Service, the lead federal agency for the event, requested additional assets from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) out of an abundance of caution.

As the emergency response arm of HHS, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) was involved throughout the year in planning for this event. ASPR’s the Regional Emergency Coordinators based in Chicago served as leads for HHS. Planning efforts brought together experts from the Food and Drug Administration, CDC, and the HHS regional office, among others, to work with our state and local counterparts.

ASPR deployed about 60 personnel – a command-and-control element and operational team personnel from the National Disaster Medical System. These personnel provided the links to the city and federal leaders, and we helped staff a clinic for conference attendees. These personnel also served as the advanced element in case more federal assets would have been needed to respond to any emergency. ASPR also sent additional equipment and supplies as a backup to the city’s own and had additional medical supplies ready to deploy if needed in an emergency. Fortunately there wasn’t one.

As always these deployments also provide great training for our personnel and for our response systems as a whole. The event provided a fantastic opportunity to work with personnel from multiple agencies at all levels of government. One unusual partner was Argonne National Laboratory, a non-profit research laboratory operated by the University of Chicago for the Department of Energy. Argonne offered its facilities to house our command personnel.

Our responders were especially grateful to the staff of Provident Hospital in Chicago, another unique partner. The hospital staff opened an entire previously closed wing of the hospital and their cafeteria so we had a nice place to sleep (vs. tents) at no charge and could buy food in their cafeteria (vs. MREs). They greeted us with open arms and called in extra cafeteria and facility staff to support our teams at no cost to the government. What a huge public service for our nation! It was a real sacrifice for this historic hospital in these tight economic times. We can’t thank Provident Hospital enough for all they did for us.

Planning and being ready to respond during a national or international event like the NATO Summit is an incredibly important task. It requires careful, detailed planning to make the best use of our collective skills, knowledge, and resources. At ASPR, we’re honored to have served alongside community, state, and federal partners in supporting a successful meeting of world leaders.


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