Saturday, November 05, 2005

Homeland Security in charge of pandemic?

In an August post about an important story by Maryn McKenna and Jeff Nesmith of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, we pointed out it wasn't exactly who was in charge if a pandemic were to strike. Not clear to us and not clear to the feds. Both Homeland Security and Health and Human Services claimed the mantle of leadership. A look at the National Response Plan reveals Homeland Security won, although it isn't very obvious from the PlanFlu.

In section 9 on roles and responsibilities of the National Response Plan we find the following:
While the Federal government plays a critical role in elements of preparedness and response to a pandemic, the success of these measures is predicated on actions taken at the individual level and in states and communities. Federal responsibilities include the following:

• Advancing international preparedness, surveillance, response and containment activities.

• Supporting the establishment of countermeasure stockpiles and production capacity by:

• Facilitating the development of sufficient domestic production capacity for vaccines, antivirals, diagnostics and personal protective equipment to support domestic needs, and encouraging the development of production capacity around the world;

• Advancing the science necessary to produce effective vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics; and

• Stockpiling and coordinating the distribution of necessary countermeasures, in concert with states and other entities.

• Ensuring that federal departments and agencies, including federal health care systems, have developed and exercised preparedness and response plans that take into account the potential impact of a pandemic on the federal workforce, and are configured to support state, local and private sector efforts as appropriate.

• Facilitating state and local planning through funding and guidance.

• Providing guidance to the private sector and public on preparedness and response planning, in conjunction with states and communities.

Lead departments have been identified for the medical response (Department of Health and Human Services), veterinary response (Department of Agriculture), international activities (Department of State) and the overall domestic incident management and Federal coordination (Department of Homeland Security). Each department is responsible for coordination of all efforts within its authorized mission, and departments are responsible for developing plans to implement this Strategy.
Read that carefully. DHHS has lead on the medical response, Agriculture on the veterinary response, State on international activities, and the overall domestic incident management and Federal coordination goes to -- drum roll -- Homeland Security.

Don't you feel better, now? The folks who brought us color coding, Katrina, Michael Brown and so many other museum pieces of incompetence will be coordinating a public health emergency.