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Quickly Noted: DHS Action Directives

January 31, 2009

New Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano, has been issuing “action directives” like crazy since she was confirmed by the Senate–11 so far. These action directives are intended to bring the new Secretary up to speed on the status of key parts of the DHS mega-department. And what she’s asking for is pretty hardcore: oral reports in two weeks, written reports in a month. Asking for the status of First Responder Health Surge Capacity doesn’t seem like the kind of thing you can just whip together in an afternoon.

Funny thing is, that’s one of the reports Madame Secretary has asked for:


First Responder Health Surge Capacity. Given the ongoing threat of a pandemic, biological or nuclear attack, improving the capacity to deal with large-scale medical emergencies is paramount. While the Department of Health and Human Services serves as the lead federal agency, DHS plays a critical role in enhancing emergency medical response capabilities at all levels of government. DHS also oversees the health aspects of contingency planning for all chemical biological, radiological and nuclear hazards. Given the department’s all-hazards response mission, it is essential to determine the current state of medical readiness, including local first responder capabilities, hospital bed capacity, and the ability to surge existing capacity in an emergency, as well as any gaps and current efforts to address them. To this end, the Office of Health Affairs (OHA), working with FEMA, state and local emergency management officials, and other federal agencies shall:
  1. Review plans and activities underway to strengthen and coordinate medical readiness preparedness.
  2. Conduct a review and assess any shortcomings of the National Response Framework Emergency Support Function #8 – Public Health and Medical Services.
  3. Review the capacity for communities to handle large scale health emergencies, including first responder capacity and the ability to surge beyond existing bed space at local hospitals.
  4. Review any overlaps and inconsistencies in medical readiness plans and activities.
  5. Review ongoing grant making efforts and assess their effectiveness.
  6. Submit any possible restructuring or consolidations for these plans and activities that are necessary and identify areas where state and local emergency management agencies can provide input.


An oral report is due Feb. 10, with a final report due Feb. 24.

Insane I say. But wholly needed. I’m stoked about in depth reviews of the status of public health preparedness, I’ll let you know if this report gets released to the public.

Image credit: DHS

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 1, 2009 3:16 pm

    One thing I would add to this is that the OHA is supposed to be keeping tabs on this information anyway, so this report should be more of a “collect what you know and tell me about it”.

  2. February 3, 2009 10:04 pm


    That makes a lot of sense, and frankly, that it’s causing such a stir is kind of scary. If I were in Secretary Napolitano’s place, I’d probably do exactly what she’s doing.


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