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Report (OEI-04-11-00260)

11-29-2012
HHS Public Health and Medical Services Emergency Support Preparedness

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Summary

WHY WE DID THIS STUDY

In 2010, the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency published An IG's Guide for Assessing Federal Response Capabilities, which recommended that Federal agencies assess their emergency preparedness. Within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), ASPR organizes HHS's resources and response as the Coordinator and Primary agency responsible for Emergency Support Function-8 (ESF-8), Public Health and Medical Services. HHS also has responsibilities as a Support agency for nine additional ESFs.

HOW WE DID THIS STUDY

We reviewed ASPR's and other Federal agencies' documentation and information request responses regarding HHS participation in ESF preparedness activities. We determined the total number of incidents to which HHS deployed resources in 2010 and 2011. We also reported responses from ASPR and States regarding HHS's response to three selected incidents.

WHAT WE FOUND

HHS has participated in preparedness activities to fulfill its Coordinator, Primary, and Support agency ESF responsibilities. However, other ESF Coordinator and Primary agencies did not always report having a clear understanding of HHS's Support agency role and available resources during incident response. Further, HHS deployed resources for 28 incidents in 2010 and 2011 and demonstrated its ability to effectively fulfill its ESF-8 responsibilities for 3 incidents we reviewed in 2010 and 2011. However, States reported receiving multiple requests from HHS for the same information, which were burdensome during incident response.

WHAT WE RECOMMEND

We recommend that ASPR: (1) continue to increase communication with the ESF Coordinator and Primary agencies it serves as a Support agency, and (2) coordinate HHS requests from HHS Staff Divisions and Operating Divisions to reduce the burden on States during incident response. ASPR concurred with both recommendations.

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