Crisis preparedness and response

Generic preparedness planning in 7 points

1. Information Management

This entails gathering, handling, using and spreading information related to emergencies, to:

  • identify hazards and risks,
  • monitor the status and development of the emergency,
  • identify resources available and distribute/use them,
  • identify existing information systems used by the people involved

The EU has played a key role in setting standards for and coordinating surveillance and monitoring work in connection with a wide range of health threats. Examples include early warning systems, dedicated surveillance networks and information systems for chemical substances.

EU work in this field:

2. Communication

Communicating accurate and timely information at all levels is crucial for minimising social disruption and economic consequences and maximising the effectiveness of the response. This requires:

  • sound communication infrastructure to keep open channels of communication even in emergencies when some may be unavailable / overloaded
  • proper procedures to regulate communication from / between people in charge of planning and advising political decision-makers on public health and cross-sectoral issues
  • effective communication with the public and the media - by public authorities, before potential public health emergencies.
  • coordination to ensure public information is consistent and accurate and maintain confidence in the authorities' ability to tackle the emergency and avoid a public health crisis.

EU work in this field:

  • Early warning and rapid alert systems
  • Health Emergency Operations Facility: Minimal requirements for national crisis rooms
  • Building a network of media contacts in national health ministries

3. Scientific/evidence-based advice

Getting scientific advice is essential for managing any emergency in order to identify vulnerability and possible response action.
Mechanisms and structures for providing scientific advice at EU level exist for the various sectors relevant to public health emergencies and allow for the integration of scientific evidence from the EU countries and the Commission as well as social and economic aspects. Quantitative assessment including modelling is an important tool.

There are several EU agencies that can provide expert advice in the event of public health emergencies:

The Commission and the relevant EU agencies are developing mechanisms to rapidly locate and access expertise in EU countries and at EU level. EU directories of experts allow national authorities to request specific services when needed.

The EU has also set up a scientific committee on emerging and newly-identified health risks. This committee is composed of independent scientific experts providing the Commission with the sound scientific advice it needs related to issues not covered by other Community risk- assessment bodies.

The Commission also works in close cooperation with the World Health Organisation. 

4. Health crisis management structures

Once a threat has been classified as severe, an EU health crisis management structure is activated. Its purpose is to identify the minimum level of intervention to ensure a coordinated response. This complements the command and control structures in each EU country. Health crisis management structure encompasses all planning and response operations involved in a multi-sector response, organising a hierarchy of decision making between all parties. It defines who does what, when, how and with what implications for resources and impact on the overall response.

The EU health crisis management structure connects the different national command and control structures through their public health authorities. Those in charge of managing the threat in each country must be identified to ensure decisions made are clear, timely and at the right level, and that all public health authorities and governments follow a uniform policy.

EU liaison systems:

5. Intersectoral collaboration

Managing a public health crisis inevitably requires support from other sectors, to:

  • prepare other sectors to assist the public health authorities in medical matters such as triage, isolation, quarantine, treatment and administering medicines and vaccinations.
  • introduce and apply measures set up by other sectors, such as logistics, culling and decontamination, power and drinking-water supplies, transport-related measures (particularly at national entry and exit points), telecommunication services, civil protection and civil defence operations, cooperation between medical and law enforcement authorities, banning public gatherings and closing down premises, establishing the legal and ethical implications of countermeasures (e.g. quarantine, confidentiality of passenger lists, transporting dangerous goods, customs, controls and enforcement, requisitioning property, etc.)

EU work in this field:

Other work in this field:

6. Health sector preparedness

A public health emergency will almost inevitably strain the health sector. Preparedness and planning are therefore needed when adapting to the new requirements. Principles for managing cases will vary according to the country, the health infrastructure available, and the ability to manage an extensive public health emergency. However, the principles of planning are likely to be similar and exchanges of information will be helpful. When cross-border support is needed, both countries must understand the procedures being used. Networks should therefore be created between countries to communicate information on planned activities, and help develop new national plans and principles for sharing resources (human, planning and information).

EU work in this field:

The Commission is running many activities in this area often together other bodies such as the World health organization (WHO), European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the Executive Agency for Health and Consumers (EAHC)

Other activities in this domain:

7. Management of plans

Plan management refers to the processes by which established plans are implemented, tested and evaluated, and staff are trained.

EU work in this field: