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Planners: Preparedness and Response


  • Disaster response plans describe how various governmental and private sector entities are supposed to function individually and collaboratively during a disaster in order to protect the public and key infrastructure and continue to perform their missions.
  • Hospitals, public health agencies and other health entities also have response plans specific for their missions.
  • Planning details
    • Some plans are appropriate for all types of incidents: "all hazard" plans.
    • Some plans are hazard-specific e.g., chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, natural disasters
    • Hazard-specific response plans typically contain the critical elements of "all hazard" plans but also include modifications that address hazard-specific features
    • Effective plans are
      • Developed collaboratively by all potential participants
      • Integrated into plans that will be used by others participating in the response
      • Communicated to all those who will perform activities specified by the plan
      • Practiced in formal drills or exercises
      • Updated regularly to reflect lessons learned in formal exercises
  • The nature, scope, and location of a mass casualty disaster will significantly affect the implementation of any response plan
  • The documents featured below provide an overview of some of the current key documents relevant to medical response planning. The list is not exhaustive.
  • If you are new to the planning process, please refer to pre-existing documents for your jurisdictions and workplace
  • In 2009, the Institute of Medicine published a detailed document (purchase required) reviewing US medical preparedness to respond to a terrorist nuclear event.
  • In 2011, the Nuclear Detonation Scarce Resources Working Group published a series of manuscripts about medical and public health planning and response to a nuclear disaster with scarce resources. (DMPHP, March 2011)
  • Review of preparedness issues from HHS/ASPR

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Key Federal Disaster Response Planning Documents

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Key US Radiation-specific Response Plans

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State, Territorial, Tribal, and Local Government Disaster Response Planning

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Incident Command System and Hospital Incident Command System

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Selected National and International Radiation Event-specific Response Planning Documents


US Department of Health & Human Services     
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response National Library of Medicine