5 Ways to Improve Emergency Preparedness for Next Time

5 Ways to Improve Emergency Preparedness for Next Time

A new analysis of the United States government’s response to COVID-19 highlights myriad problems with its emergency preparedness approach.

Instead of the current response that relied in large part on international supply chains and the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS), a panel of experts calls for a more dynamic, flexible approach to emergency preparedness at the national level.

“When COVID-19 hit, the US was unable to provide adequate testing supplies and equipment, unable to provide adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), and didn’t have a functioning plan,” says Rob Handfield, professor of operations and supply chain management at North Carolina State University and first author of the paper in the Milbank Quarterly.

“The SNS hadn’t replenished some of its supplies since the H1N1 pandemic in 2009-10. Many of its supplies were expired. And there was no clear leadership. Federal authorities punted problems to the states, leaving states to fight each other for limited resources. And the result was chaos.

To that end, Handfield and collaborators came together to outline the components necessary to ensure that there is an adequate federal response to future health crises. They determined that an effective federal program needs to address five criteria:

1. More flexibility: In order to respond to unanticipated threats, any government system needs to have sufficient market intelligence to ensure that it has lots of options, relationships, and suppliers across the private sector for securing basic needs. “You can’t stockpile supplies for every possible contingency,” Handfield says.

2. Inventory visibility: The government would need to know what supplies it has, ..