Chertoff: Planning for disaster requires everyone
And finally, I want to talk about the importance that we will continue to place on our public health officials and our emergency responders in the front lines, because the likelihood is an outbreak will first be felt and experienced at the local level.
Adequate education, thoughtful planning, and resources devoted to preparedness will be critical if we do have an onset in a particular locality to make sure we respond in as effective manner as possible, that we communicate so that others can get themselves ready, and that we are always coordinated in what we do to protect the lives of our fellow citizens and make sure we can continue to operate in all the essential arenas in which we have responsibilities.
My message, in case I didn't beat it home enough, is that the responsibility of preparedness falls on everybody. And our capacity to fulfill our mission at DHS depends entirely on our ability to work seamlessly with our partners in the federal government, state and local government, the private sector and at an individual level.
So I want to thank you for coming today. Obviously your attendance here shows how seriously you take this. The public relies greatly on the kinds of health care expertise and resources that you deploy every single day, and we look forward to working with you together to face whatever challenges the future holds.
DUFFY: If you'll raise your hand, and also if you'll identify yourself and your affiliation, please.
Q: Hi, I'm Angie Marek, with U.S. News. Earlier today we were hearing from hospitals about their concerns about not having the proper funds to be able to have a surge capacity, to kind of buy that equipment. My question for you is, what is the department doing to help them, are there any grant streams they can access, and is that even a DHS responsibility?
CHERTOFF: Well, most of the grant streams on, of course, public health goes through the Department of Health and Human Services. We do have some grant streams through the states, homeland security grants or Urban Area Security Initiative grants and other similar infrastructure grants, some portion of which may be available certainly in terms of public health preparation as it relates to hazards that, for example, could be biological hazards. Obviously, the private sector has a responsibility to fund itself.
If there were an emergency, we are identifying surge capacity that we could bring into play. There's the National Disaster Medical System, NDMS, which we brought into play, for example, in Katrina. There are other kind of surge capacities in HHS and even at the Department of Defense. Of course, in a pandemic which would be nationwide, we wouldn't be following the model of surging toward a particular geographic area. We would have to make sure there was a surge capacity that was distributed across the country.
I think we also have to think out of the box a little about capabilities. And maybe we have to figure out ways to treat people that are, you know, not necessarily hospital-based, but maybe clinically based, can even be based in businesses certain kinds of things we could do to reduce the pressure on hospitals. So and some of this, obviously, is making more money available. But some of it is also being creative with the resources we have to try to stretch them as far as possible.