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Federal Emergency Preparedness Directive Issued
The White House recently issued a directive establishing a National Strategy for public health and medical preparedness.
Homeland Security Presidential Directive 21 (HSPD 21) focuses on disease surveillance; the stockpile and distribution of vaccines, drugs and other medical countermeasures; mass casualty care; and community resilience. The document creates multiple federal task forces to develop an implementation plan for the strategy.
HSPD 21 specifically addresses preparedness for catastrophic health events, both natural and man-made, which “result in a number of ill or injured persons sufficient to overwhelm the capabilities of immediate local and regional emergency response and health care systems.”
Catastrophic health events include, but are not limited to: terrorist attacks with a biological weapon, nuclear weapon, or other weapon of mass destruction; a 1918-like influenza pandemic; and “calamitous meteorological or geological event[s],” any of which could result in tens to hundreds of thousands of casualties (or more) and have the potential for great economic destabilization.
HSPD 21 also directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish an office for emergency medical care, and develop templates that provide minimum operational plans to enable communities to distribute and dispense medical countermeasures within 48 hours.
The document also directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to establish a mechanism for relaying up-to-date and specific information on public health threats to state and local public health officials, among other actions.