Secretary of Homeland Security Calls for Assessment of First Responder Health Surge Capability

By Sherry Harowitz

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has issued an action directive to assess 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 achieve that objective, according to the agency release, the Office of Health Affairs (OHA), working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), state and local emergency management officials, and other federal agencies will:


  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.

This directive was accompanied by a related call to assess recovery status with regard to Hurricane Katrina, and it follows on the heels of five earlier directives aimed at assessing other homeland security issues, such as border security.


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