NIOSH Emergency Preparedness and Response Program: Expert Panel Review [January 2019]
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NIOSH Emergency Preparedness and Response Program: Expert Panel Review [January 2019]

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      "The mission of Emergency Preparedness and Response (EPR) Program is to protect the health and safety of emergency response providers and recovery workers through the advancement of research and collaborations to prevent diseases, injuries, and fatalities during responses to natural and man-made disasters and novel emergent events. The EPR Program works to integrate occupational safety and health into emergency responses during planning and preparedness activities, as well as during active emergencies. It is a designated core and specialty program within the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and functions as the coordination point for all NIOSH emergency preparedness and response activities, providing occupational safety and health assistance during emergencies. All Panel members concluded that the EPR Program has done excellent work and made significant progress in improving worker health and safety, both in preparation for and during responses to a wide range of natural and man-made emergencies over the 10 years covered by this evaluation (2007-2017). Given the EPR Program's recent creation, small EPR Office (EPRO) staff, and limited budget, all Panel members were impressed with the EPR Program's impact, productivity, and ability to coordinate expertise from across NIOSH to accomplish this important work in response to a wide range of emergencies ?some anticipated, but many of which unexpected. The Panel found that the EPR Program Evidence Package (Evidence Package) provided significant documentation and information on the health and safety burden for these workers, as well as addressed the need for interventions to a wide range of hazards they face. The Panel also found that the Evidence Package included an impressive number of project outputs and interventions to address specific identified needs and build a solid base of knowledge and experience. These outputs included written publications and webpages, the development of training tools and materials, trainings, technical assistance, sampling methods and guidance, software and mobile apps, and many other tools. The EPR Program strives to remain flexible and responsive to new focus areas and objectives that emerge, as its work is strongly shaped by current events. The EPR Program has shown a significant ability to adapt to the numerous calls for assistance and demands on its resources, often from external agencies and during unexpected emergencies, such as the 2010 Gulf oil spill and the 2014 Ebola outbreak. While the Panel was impressed with this flexibility, they had concerns with how this flexibility might diffuse its limited resources, affecting the Program's focus and impact in the future. Given that responding to current events can be a priority, the Panel also considered the ability of the Program to balance preparedness and response activities. Below are three interconnected key elements believed to be critical to the successful impact of the Program work over the past decade, as identified by the Panel: Focusing activities and outputs from prior work to create a body of knowledge and tools useful for many types of future events. The Panel saw this focus as crucial to strengthening and magnifying the EPR Program impact. Building the capacity of the EPRO, specifically, and NIOSH, generally, to effectively engage and collaborate with the many other federal and state agencies and private organizations, especially those organizations in leadership roles during emergency preparedness and response. The Panel believes that while the Program has had much success gaining visibility and forging collaborations, many organizations still have limited experience with, and knowledge of, the EPR Program and NIOSH. Balancing preparedness and response activities led to the adoption of EPR Program outputs into federal, state, and other emergency plans and the integration of EPRO and other NIOSH staff to leadership positions within emergency response systems. This adoption of outputs and integration of staff has greatly multiplied the impact of EPR work and led to greater and more widespread health and safety protections for emergency response workers. An excellent example of the relevance and impact of this Program, in both preparedness and response, for a wide range of emergencies and disasters, the Panel members agree, is the Emergency Responder Health Monitoring and Surveillance (ERHMS) Program. The ERHMS Program aims to ensure that specific activities to protect the health and safety of emergency response and recovery workers are conducted during each of the three phases of a response-pre-deployment, deployment, and post-deployment. The ERHMS Program has shown its value, first in the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill response and later during the Ebola outbreak. Other key examples of activities conducted by the EPR Program over the past decade, and described in this Review's findings, include: the DWH oil spill response, hurricane responses, radiation responses, anthrax preparedness, and infectious disease responses, including the H1N1 influenza pandemic and the Ebola outbreak. Following their Review of the EPR Program, the Panel makes several recommendations for the future of the Program that they believe will assist in the continuation and expansion of the Program's successes and impact over the next decade." - NIOSHTIC-2

      NIOSHTIC no. 20057124


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