Crisis preparedness and response

European Commission early warning and rapid alert systems in the field of health threats

In order to ensure a rapid and effective response by the EU to a wide range of emergencies, the Commission has put in place a number of early warning and rapid alert systems. These systems are based on an information exchange network for receiving and triggering an alert as well as exchanging other relevant information. Each of these systems covers a specific health threat field :

EWRS is the Early Warning and Response System used in the context of communicable diseases threats. It is a web-based system linking the Commission, the public health authorities in Member States responsible for measures to control communicable diseases and the European Centre for Diseases Prevention and Control (ECDC). EEA Countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) are also linked to the system. Under Decision 2119/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council and Decision 2000/57/EC, the Member States should inform about the events likely to affect public health at the EU-level. These decisions also regulate the procedure for reporting and for the functioning of the system. Therefore, the EWRS is frequently used for notification of outbreaks, exchange of information and discussion about the coordination of measures among players. The EWRS has been successfully used in a number of events such as SARS, avian influenza in humans and other major communicable diseases. The ECDC is in charge of providing scientific advice and risk assessment concerning messages received through the EWRS. Since November 2007, the Centre also supports the Commission by operating the informatics tool.

RAS BICHAT is the Rapid Alert System used for exchanging information on health threats due to deliberate release of chemical, biological and radio-nuclear agents (notification of confirmed or suspected events, exchange of information and coordination of measures among partners). The system links the Commission with the designated competent authority and 24H operational contact points of each Member States.
RAS BICHAT is a part of the Programme of cooperation on preparedness and response to biological and chemical agent attacks . It has been established to serve in particular the Health Security Committee members, nominated by Health Ministers to address and coordinate together with the Commission all preparedness and response issues in terms of public health threats related to attacks in which biological and chemical agents might be used.

RAS CHEM is a rapid alert system currently under development. It is meant to link the poison centres in the European Union, national chemical agencies and the Ministries of Health for the exchange of information on incidents including chemical agents relevant to terrorism and other events leading to release of chemicals, and consultation and coordination of counter-measures. Launching of the system is expected in 2010.