Preparing Health Professionals & Emergency Managers in 2013

by Jack Herrmann

For four days (12-15 March 2013), public health and healthcare professionals, emergency managers, and other leaders from across the nation will convene in Atlanta, Georgia, for the 2013 Public Health Preparedness Summit. The eighth annual Summit will provide a national forum for attendees to collaborate, learn, and share best practices to enhance their preparedness work long after the Summit concludes. As this difficult budgetary climate persists, the challenge has become not only doing more with less, but implementing innovative strategies and integrated systems to protect the nation’s public health. These challenges will be addressed with this year’s conference theme, “Strengthening Public Health and Healthcare Preparedness Through Innovation, Integration, and Implementation.”

The Summit will offer an exciting and informative agenda. Twenty-nine hands-on workshops will provide in-depth training from experts in the field and continuing education opportunities for attendees. “Sharing,” “Interactive,” and “Ignite” sessions will cover a wide range of topics from disseminating risk communications to incorporating vulnerable populations in planning to developing strong and varied partnerships. Three engaging plenary sessions will provide a strong foundation for the Summit and will reinforce lessons learned.

Tuesday’s opening plenary session, entitled “A Community United: An Integrated Response to the Aurora Mass Shooting,” will feature officials from the Tri-County (Colorado) Health Department, the University of Colorado Hospital, and the Aurora Mental Health Center, who responded to the mass shooting on 20 July 2012. The speakers will highlight the key areas necessary to facilitate the response, including ESF-8 (Emergency Support Function #8 – Public Health and Medical Services Annex), behavioral health, patient tracking/family reunification, and partnerships with state and local authorities.

Wednesday’s plenary session, entitled “To Stay or Go? What Sandy Taught Us About Hospital Evacuation and Healthcare Preparedness,” will be sponsored by the Center for Biosecurity at UPMC. Officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, Inova Health System, and Harris County (Texas) Public Health and Environmental Services will discuss the questions and lessons learned from hospital evacuations during Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. The speakers will highlight the importance of preparing for medical surge, onboarding additional medical staff, and resolving credentialing and insurance issues.

Lastly, Friday’s closing plenary session, entitled “Great Expectations: Maintaining Public Trust and Instilling Confidence Before, During, and After a Disaster,” will be moderated by ABC News’ Chief Health and Medical Editor, Dr. Richard Besser. Panelists include: Dr. Nicole Lurie, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at HHS; Richard Serino, Deputy Administrator at the Federal Emergency Management Agency; Dr. Ali S. Khan, Director of the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Jerry DeFrancisco, President of Humanitarian Services at the American Red Cross; and Marisa Raphael, Deputy Commissioner of the Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response at New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. They will discuss how federal, state, and local officials can shape public expectations prior to a disaster and take control of the messages after a disaster, even in light of the increasing role of traditional and social media.

Conference attendees will have the opportunity to acquire the tools, resources, and networks needed to advance their work and to integrate and implement innovative strategies into future preparedness activities. Additional information on the 2013 Public Health Preparedness Summit can be found at

__________________________ Jack Herrmann is the senior advisor and chief for public health preparedness with the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO). In this role, he oversees the organization’s public health preparedness portfolio, which is aimed at strengthening the preparedness and response capabilities of local health departments. He also serves as the organization’s chief public health preparedness liaison to local, state, and federal partner agencies, and chairs the annual Public Health Preparedness Summit. He has extensive experience in disaster management and response and has participated in numerous disaster relief operations with the American Red Cross. He holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from St. John Fisher College, and a master’s degree in counseling from the University of Rochester (New York).