Ready CDC

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Ready CDC logo

By Victoria Harp

CDC leads the nation in responding to public health emergencies, such as outbreaks and natural disasters. While the agency encourages the public to be aware of personal and family preparedness, not all CDC staff  follow those guidelines. In an effort to increase personal preparedness as part of workforce culture, CDC created the Ready CDC initiative. Targeting the CDC workforce living in metropolitan Atlanta, this program recently completed a pilot within the organization and is currently being evaluated for measurable improvements in recommended personal preparedness actions. Ready CDC is co-branded with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) program, which is designed for local entities to take and make personal preparedness more meaningful to local communities. Ready CDC has done just that; the program uses a Whole Community approach to put personal preparedness into practice.

IMG_1043_smFEMA’s Whole Community approach relies on community action and behavior change at the local community level to instill a culture of preparedness. To achieve this with Ready CDC, the CDC workforce receives the following:

  • The support needed to participate from their employer
  • Consistent messaging from a trusted, valued source
  • Localized and meaningful personal preparedness tools and resources
  • Expertise and guidance from local community preparedness leaders
  • Personal preparedness education that goes beyond the basic awareness level to practicing actionable behaviors such as making an emergency kit and a family disaster plan

Are you Ready CDC?

When the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response Learning Office conducted an environmental scan and literature review, as well as an inward look at the readiness and resiliency of the CDC workforce, the need for a program like Ready CDC emerged. Although CDC has highlighted personal preparedness nationally in its innovative preparedness campaigns, there have been no formal efforts to determine if or ensure that the larger CDC workforce is prepared for an emergency. After all, thousands of people make up CDC’s workforce in Metro Atlanta, throughout the United States, and beyond.

The public relies upon those thousands of people to keep the life-saving, preventative work of CDC going 24/7. When the CDC workforce has their personal preparedness plans in place, they should be more willing and better able to work on behalf of CDC during a local emergency. Research has shown that individuals are more likely to respond to an event if they perceive that their family is prepared to function in their absence during an emergency*. Also, the National Health Security Strategy describes personal preparedness in its first strategic objective as a means to build community resilience.

Local Partnerships for the CDC

Ready CDC intends to move the dial by using its own workforce to understand behaviors associated with preparedness, including barriers to change. This is the most intriguing aspect of Ready CDC for the local community preparedness leaders involved. Most community-level preparedness education is currently conducted at the awareness level. Classes are taught and headcounts are taken, but beyond that, there is no feedback or follow-up to determine if their efforts are leading to desired behavior changes. Ready CDC is currently measuring and studying the Ready CDC intervention and that has local community preparedness leaders around metro Atlanta very interested in its outcomes.

IMG_1072_smWhile CDC has subject matter experts on many health-related topics, CDC looked to preparedness experts in and around the Metro Atlanta community to help make Ready CDC a locally-sustainable intervention. After all, the best interventions are active collaborations with community partners**. Key community partners from the American Red Cross; Atlanta-Fulton County, DeKalb County, and Gwinnett County Emergency Management Agencies; and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency played ongoing and significant roles in developing the program content, structure, and sustainability needed for CDC’s Metro Atlanta workforce. CDC gets the benefit of their time and expertise while partners have the satisfaction of knowing their efforts are making a difference in and contributing to the resilience of their communities. Also, because of these great partnerships, one lucky class participant wins a family disaster kit courtesy of The Home Depot and Georgia Emergency Management Agency.

Ready CDC is currently available to the CDC workforce in and around Metro Atlanta; however, efforts are underway to ensure that the broader CDC workforce is reached in 2015. For more information about Ready CDC, please email

UPDATE: April 30, 2015

For CDC’s 2015 pledge to prepare as part of FEMA’S April PrepareAthon, Ready CDC is expanding from CDC’s Atlanta-base to additional CDC campuses located in Morgantown, West Virginia.

Ready CDC Morgantown, WV logoHome to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV is an urban college town that quickly turns rural 10 miles away from the city. CDC’s Morgantown campus employs close to 600 people who provide ongoing national leadership in preventing work-related illnesses and injuries. Residents of Morgantown find the area safe and less prone to disasters. “Fortunately for Morgantown, it has not been affected by a significant storm or other emergency lately other than a large snowfall from Super storm Sandy. As a result, people are less inclined to be personally prepared compared to people in the Mid-west who are dealing with tornado threats all spring”, says Stephanie Kraynak, a Program Analyst for the NIOSH Safety Office.

presneter displays emergency kit items at the Ready CDC workshop.
Ready CDC presenter at the Morgantown, WV workshop.

Ready CDC reached out to NIOSH at a time when it was mobilizing its staff to support the West Africa Ebola response. “The timing of the call was perfect. We thought that if more of our people had their personal preparedness plans in place, they would be more likely to help with a response like what was needed for Ebola. We (CDC’s Morgantown campus) are prepared for disasters or other emergencies. Our employees are very involved with our drills and trainings. We hope this level of preparedness engagement at work translates to our staff’s home life, but we really don’t know,” says Ms. Kraynak.

Nearly 40 staff attended the Ready CDC in-person workshop held in Morgantown this April. For Ms. Kraynak the take-away in hosting a Ready CDC workshop in Morgantown was, “If by participating in Ready CDC our workforce takes some personal preparedness actions, it will be well worth it.” After all, if we must be able to prepare for emergencies and protect the health and safety of ourselves and our loved ones in order to uphold the CDC mission to protect the health and safety of the American people.


*Barnett et al. 2009; Barnett et al., 2012; Parker et al., 2005 Barnett, D. J., Balicer, R. D., Thompson, C. B., Storey, J. D., Omer, S. B., Semon, N. L., . . . Links, J. M. (2009). Assessment of local public health workers’ willingness to respond to pandemic influenza through application of the extended parallel process model. PLoS One, 4(7), e6365. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0006365

*Barnett, D. J., Thompson, C. B., Errett, N. A., Semon, N. L., Anderson, M. K., Ferrell, J. L., . . . Links, J. M. (2012). Determinants of emergency response willingness in the local public health workforce by jurisdictional and scenario patterns: a cross-sectional survey. BMC Public Health, 12, 164. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-12-164

*Parker, C. L., Barnett, D. J., Fews, A. L., Blodgett, D., & Links, J. M. (2005). The Road Map to Preparedness: a competency-based approach to all-hazards emergency readiness training for the public health workforce. Public Health Rep, 120(5), 504-514.

**Neuhauser, L., Kreps, G.L., & Syme, S. L. (2013). Community participatory design of health communication interventions. In D.K. Kim, A. Singhal, and G.L. Kreps, (Eds.), Health communication: Strategies for developing global health programs (pp. 227-243). New York:  Peter Lang Publishers.

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Page last reviewed: April 30, 2015
Page last updated: April 30, 2015