NEHA April 2024 Journal of Environmental Health


Open Access


An Update on the All- Hazards Approach for the ATSDR Emergency Management Unit

Maraia Tremarelli, MSPH

Tyra Barrett

Alison Stargel, MPH

tionally, EMU is staed 24/7 to provide support for NCEH/ATSDR regions; state, tribal, local, and territorial (STLT) health departments; and federal partners through the ATSDR and NCEH Duty OŒcer Hot- line. The hotline can be accessed through the CDC Emergency Operations Center at (770) 488-7100. EMU is guided by five core functions (Figure 1): 1.Strategic alignment of eorts across agen- cies and expertise 2.Hazard assessment and disaster risk reduction 3.Plans, training, and exercises 4.Incident management and coordination 5. Situational awareness, fusion, and outreach These functions allow EMU to act as a node where regional oŒces, STLT partners, and other federal agencies can request and receive technical expertise and site-specific support for health concerns caused by acute or threatened releases of hazardous materials or natural disasters. Our column provides an in-depth overview of the foundational and functional frameworks that enable EMU’s role. We also describe how EMU has evolved to tackle ever-changing environmental disas- ters in alignment with the mission and goals of ATSDR. Foundational Frameworks EMU activations can be triggered by requests from regional oŒces, STLT partners, and/or other federal agencies (e.g., U.S. Environmen- tal Protection Agency [U.S. EPA], Admin- istration for Strategic Preparedness and Response). Activations can also be triggered by the Staord Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, which provides federal assis-

Editor’s Note: As part of our continued e ort to highlight innovative approaches to improve the health and environment of communities, the Journal is pleased to publish regular columns from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). ATSDR serves the public by using the best science, taking responsive public health actions, and providing trusted health information to prevent harmful exposures and diseases related to toxic substances. The purpose of this column is to inform readers of ATSDR’s activities and initiatives to better understand the relationship between exposure to hazardous substances in the environment, its impact on human health, and how to protect public health. The findings and conclusions in this column are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the o‚cial position of CDC or ATSDR. Maraia Tremarelli is a health scientist and emergency operations specialist, Tyra Barrett is a public health advisor, and Alison Stargel is an environmental health scientist. All work within the Emergency Management Unit at ATSDR.

I ntroduction Environmental emergencies—such as natural disasters or the acute releases of hazardous substances from major spills, fires, or accidents—are inherently multidis- ciplinary. Every environmental emergency involves a wide range of health and safety concerns, which require diering expertise and resources each time. In these scenarios, coordination must occur eectively and often among many health and nonhealth partners. To provide timely and relevant environ- mental emergency response expertise, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) operates the Emergency

Management Unit (EMU). The interdisci- plinary coordinating capabilities of EMU allow its sta to also work closely with the National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH) within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). EMU, in coordination with the 10 regional oŒces of NCEH and ATSDR, manages the emergency response assets in both agencies to provide technical expertise and site-specific support in response to health issues caused by acute or threatened releases of hazardous materi- als into the environment, terrorist events, natural hazards, radiological or nuclear events, or technological emergencies. Addi-


Volume 86 • Number 8

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