CDC’s Emergency Management SpecialistsPosted on by
Meet Mark Hall, an emergency management specialist in CDC’s Division of Emergency Operations in the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response. As part of the Plans, Training, Exercise, and Evaluation Team — Mark and his team make sure CDC is prepared for emergencies and assesses how the agency performs during a response.
Being ready to respond to national and international emergencies takes practice. Large-scale exercises are held across CDC, with federal partners, and at the state and local level. Mark and his colleagues are part of the team that evaluates the exercises that CDC administers. They ensure that exercise mimics real-world events and after the exercise, evaluate what worked and what needs to be improved. In an emergency response, the team also monitors the way in which CDC is conducting the response to see if any activities need to be tweaked. As part of the monitoring and review processes, the team looks at everything from the processes for deploying people and supplies, to the logistics and operations of CDC’s emergency operation center. This job requires strong analytical and communication skills and the flexibility to switch from exercise to emergency response mode when the need arises.
Public Health Matters sat down with Mark to learn a little more about his job in emergency management and what has best prepared him for his important role at CDC.
How does your work help improve CDC’s ability to respond to emergencies?
Mark say, his job is to evaluate CDC exercises and response efforts to ensure that the agency continues to improve. The evaluations conducted by Mark and his team after each exercise, whether a CDC-wide exercise or for a specific group, help to identify issues and areas for improvement. Mark emphasizes the importance of not only finding ways to improve CDC’s emergency response work, but also recognizing the good work is being done. “During these after-action reviews we also want to focus on the successes, not just what we did wrong, and communicate what worked best to the rest of CDC,” says Mark.
What has best prepared you for this job?
For Mark, his 20 years in the military and a background in operations, planning, and training helped prepare him to work in CDC’s Division of Emergency Operations. “I enjoyed the idea of going from operations, plans, exercises, and training focused on military and combat to a focus on public health. As an emergency management specialist I still get to focus on doing good work for my country, my nation, and even for the world,” says Mark.
During his military career, Mark had the opportunity to travel to many different countries including Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Qatar, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. Going overseas, meeting different people, and experiencing different cultures has helped with working on emergency responses, including deploying oversees as part of CDC’s response to the West Africa Ebola epidemic.
What are important skills needed for your job?
“You have to be flexible. We know that there’s a hurricane season every year that’s recurring. However the majority of the events that require a CDC response occur without prior notice, and we have to be ready to respond,” says Mark. Having the ability to adapt to different emergency responses quickly is a crucial component of CDC’s ability to react to public health threats and emergency as soon as they arise.
What do you like most about your job?
“When programs make changes based on recommendations after exercises or a real-life event, it really shows that the work has had an effect. It is also rewarding to hear news stories or friends and family talking about the domestic and global work that CDC is doing and knowing you’re a part of that work.”
PHPR: Health Security in Action
This post is part of a series designed to profile programs from CDC’s Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response.
CDC’s Emergency Management Specialists are part of the CDC’s Public Health Preparedness and Response’s (PHPR) Division of Emergency Operations.