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For ESF #8

As the Primary Agency for ESF #8, HHS has developed a Concept of Operations Plan (CONOPS) that provides the framework for its management of the public health and medical response to an emergency or disaster. The HHS CONOPS is consistent with Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD)-5 and the National Response Framework (NRF), and implements strategies to ensure a unified approach to all mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery activities carried out by HHS. On behalf of the Secretary of HHS, the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) directs and coordinates all Federal public health and medical assistance provided under ESF #8. The ASPR also acts as the senior-level HHS liaison to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other Federal departments and agencies.

Strategic Coordination

The ASPR coordinates the Federal ESF #8 response through the HHS Emergency Management Group or EMG, which operates from the Secretary’s Operations Center (SOC) at HHS headquarters in Washington, D.C. By definition, the EMG is always operational at a baseline level and in times of non-response, it maintains a surveillance and monitoring posture. When preparing for or responding to an incident, the ASPR may raise the staffing level of the EMG and begin operations out of the SOC. The EMG’s organizational structure is based on Incident Command System (ICS) principles.

Secretary’s Operations Center (SOC)

The SOC is the focal point for command and control, communications, specialized technologies, and information collection, assessment, analysis, and dissemination for all HHS components under non-emergency and emergency conditions to support a common operating picture. It is continuously staffed and maintains operations 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (24/7).

Because the SOC is always operational, it can rapidly enhance its services and staffing during times of crisis. When not in an emergency response mode, the SOC performs continuing surveillance of the following:

  • Public health data for special topics (e.g., West Nile virus, influenza activity)
  • Reports from Regional Emergency Coordinators (RECs), HHS OPDIVS and other ESF #8 agencies that support State, Tribal, and jurisdictional incident management
  • Media reports and other mass public information sources
  • Natural disasters (e.g., earthquake activity, hurricanes).

Watch Officers in the SOC maintain daily contact with other Federal operations centers to ensure situational awareness. Reports of incidents with potential public health or medical consequences are provided to the Duty Officer, who then alerts HHS senior staff as necessary. Critical public health and medical requirements are brought to the attention of the ASPR. During an event, the ASPR may deploy HHS liaisons to other Federal Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs).

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