CDC Analyzes Katrina Response
CDC will use a report analyzing the agency's response to Hurricane Katrina to improve emergency preparedness but will not make details of the report public, according to agency officials, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. CDC dispatched 700 staff members during the wake of the hurricane to address disease monitoring and prevention, care for displaced residents and provide them with vaccinations.
The agency acknowledges it was not prepared to fully implement federal command structures and standard operating procedures as required by the National Response Plan. According to an article published on CDC's Web site, "At the time, (standard operating procedures) either did not exist, were in draft form or were in conflict with those of other response organizations." In addition, "A clear, publicized Incident Action Plan was not implemented, which led to confusion among our responders," the article states.
A Sept. 19, 2005, internal e-mail to senior agency staff obtained by the Journal-Constitution stated that among staff dispatched to the disaster areas, "travel orders are missing or wrong, assignments are vague, the equipment issued from the (Director's Emergency Operations Center) doesn't work, especially the laptops, and epidemiologists are filling in to do clerical work because there is really nothing for them to do and they were not expected when they arrived."
CDC in the spring developed a corrective action plan that addresses the problems identified in the report and has implemented 80% to 90% of that plan, Richard Besser, director of CDC's Coordinating Office for Terrorism Preparedness and Emergency Responses, said.
As part of the corrective plan, "Incident action plans are now the norm for CDC's emergency response," according to the CDC article.
The agency is creating a Web-based training program for staff who volunteer during future emergencies. In addition, the agency now uses the standardized federal command structure to respond to emergencies and has developed a plan to conduct a number of response exercises.
Besser said, "One of the lessons from Katrina is people need to practice."
CDC spokesperson Tom Skinner said, "Our performance was excellent, but it was not perfect. And we will always work hard to find every area where we can improve." According to Besser, "We're far better prepared than we were" (Young, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 11/7).