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Respondent's Guide

Public Health Emergency Preparedness

This resource was part of AHRQ's Public Health Emergency Preparedness program, which was discontinued on June 30, 2011, in a realignment of Federal efforts.

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Appendix C. Glossary


Please Note: This glossary is strictly for contextual purposes for the reader. A list of sources used can be found at the end of the glossary.

Advance Registration—an official record of names of temporary professional staff that agree to augment the facility's full-time professional staff in an emergency situation. This list is prepared and maintained before a crisis.

All Hazard—an approach to emergency preparedness and response to any type of event or situation including domestic terrorist attacks, major disasters, and other emergencies.

American College of Surgeons (ACS)—a scientific and educational association of surgeons.

Biological Agent—living organisms, or the materials derived from them, that cause disease in or harm humans, animals, or plants or cause deterioration of material. Biological agents may be found as liquid droplets, aerosols, or dry powders. Biological agents such as anthrax, tularemia, cholera, encephalitis, plague, and botulism can be adapted and used as terrorist weapons. There are three different types of biological agents: bacteria, viruses, and toxins.

Bio-Safety Cabinet—designed to provide a sterile environment and protect the worker from biohazardous material.

Cache—a predetermined complement of tools, equipment, and/or supplies stored in a designated location, available for incident use.

Category-A Agents—agents that have the greatest potential for adverse public health impact with mass casualties, and most require broad-based public health preparedness efforts (e.g., improved surveillance and laboratory diagnosis and stockpiling of specific medications). Category-A agents also have a moderate-to-high potential for large-scale dissemination or a heightened general public awareness that could cause mass public fear and civil disruption.

CBRNE—Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive

CDC—Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Chain of Custody—refers to the ability to guarantee the identity and integrity of the specimen from collection through reporting of the test results. It is a process used to maintain and document the chronological history of the specimen.

Clinical staff—the medical, nursing, and other personnel attached to a hospital with expertise in observation and treatment of patients.

Contingency (for suppliers of resources)—to have identified and set up agreements with suppliers and resources (supplies, medication, equipment, staff, etc.) to provide needed goods/personnel for a possible event (e.g., biological event).

Credentialing—recognition by licensure and certification that an individual has met certain criteria for medical practice.

Decontamination—the process of removing or neutralizing contaminants that have accumulated on personnel or equipment.

Dedicated System—a communication system that is devoted entirely for staff to receive and transmit information, allowing for call-ins only. These could include E-mail, Internet, phone system, etc.

Disaster Recovery Procedures—the steps required for the restoration of all systems and resources to full, normal operational status following a disaster.

Diversion Status—the rerouting of patients to other facilities due to a hospital emergency department closure.

Dosimeter—an instrument for measuring and registering total accumulated exposure to ionizing radiation.

Exercises/Drills—an exercise is a large-scale enactment of an emergency situation to test a response system and plan. Drills are small-scale, internally conducted, activities aimed at providing a more "hands-on" teaching environment to familiarize staff with procedures necessary for emergency operations.

Evacuation—organized, phased, and supervised dispersal of people from dangerous or potentially dangerous areas

Evidentiary Chain of Custody—the planned protocol for handling and protecting evidence from an incident/event to make sure the correct authority or department can perform its investigation.

Health Alert Network (HAN)—a nationwide, integrated information and communications system serving as a platform for distribution of health alerts, dissemination of prevention guidelines and other information, distance learning, national disease surveillance, and electronic laboratory reporting, as well as for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's bioterrorism and related initiatives to strengthen preparedness at the local and State levels.

Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)—an agency of the United States Public Health Service within the Federal Department of Health and Human Services

Incident Command System (ICS)—a nationally recognized incident management practice that can help guide hospital personnel through the process of maintaining command, control, and coordination of resources on a daily basis, as well as during a major emergency.

Increasing Inpatient Bed Capacity—the hospital system's ability to rapidly expand its services beyond that of normal operation levels due to a public health emergency.

In-Kind—refers to the resources other than money that are available, such as donated good or services (labor, machinery, equipment, food, staff, etc.).

Isolation—physical separation for possible medical care of persons who are infected or who are reasonably believed to be infected with a threatening communicable disease or potential threatening communicable disease from nonisolated persons, to protect against the transmission of the threatening communicable disease to nonisolated persons.

Laboratory Response Network (LRN)—charged with the task of maintaining an integrated network of State and local public health, Federal, military, and international laboratories that can respond to bioterrorism, chemical terrorism, and other public health emergencies. LRN links State and local public health laboratories, veterinary, agriculture, military, and water- and food-testing laboratories.

Licensed Beds—the maximum number of beds for which a hospital holds a license to operate in that State. Most hospitals do not operate all of the beds for which they are licensed.

Memorandum of Understanding—an agreement between organizations defining the roles and responsibilities of each organization in relation to the other or others with respect to an issue over which the organizations have concurrent jurisdiction.

MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area)—includes at least: one city with 50,000 or more inhabitants or a Census Bureau-defined urbanized area (of at least 50,000 inhabitants) and a total metropolitan population of at least 100,000 (75,000 in New England). Additional "outlying counties" are included in the MSA if they meet specified requirements of commuting to the central counties and other selected requirements of metropolitan character. (In New England, the MSAs are defined in terms of cities and towns rather than counties).

Non-MSA—an area that is not considered an urban area or does not include a city of at least 50,000 people and does not meet the specified requirement of commuting to those areas meeting the requirements to be considered a metropolitan area

Negative-Pressure Isolation Room—negative-pressure rooms have air moving in the room. The ventilation system exhausts air to the outside or uses high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration (no recirculation unless HEPA filtered).

Network—a group of hospitals, physicians, other providers, insurers, and/or community agencies that work together to coordinate and deliver a broad spectrum of services to their community. Network participation does not preclude system affiliation.

Nonclinical staff—personnel of a hospital who perform nonclinical activities such as administration, housekeeping, maintenance, etc.

OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)—OSHA's mission is to assure the safety and health of America's workers by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach, and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual improvement in workplace safety and health.

Patient Tracking—the act of monitoring the movement and location of patients through the hospital system.

Personal Dosimeter—a small portable instrument (such as a film badge or pocket dosimeter) for measuring and recording the total accumulated dose of ionizing radiation that a person receives.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)—protective equipment, including personal protective equipment for eyes, face, head, and extremities, protective clothing, respiratory devices, and protective shields and barriers.

Preparedness—a proactive effort by an institution to shift rapidly from a normal and routine state to a heightened state of alert and an increased level of operations in response to a disaster or a multiple casualty incident. This concept concerns a hospital's implementation of planned changes in response to a short- or long-term event to achieve specific outcomes and accommodate heightened patient care volumes. These planned changes should have pre-identified thresholds for action, pre-estimated levels of required resources, and should state logistical steps that must be taken to obtain the necessary resources. These activities should be quantified to permit measurement and articulation of the relative level of preparedness for varying patient volumes and levels of heightened activity. The Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) has developed standards for emergency management that include requirements in three related areas: planning, training, and performance improvement evaluations.

Public Health Alert—a program to establish the communications, information, distance-learning, and organizational infrastructure for a new level of defense against health threats, including bioterrorism.

Radiation—high-energy particles or gamma rays that are emitted by an atom as the substance undergoes radioactive decay. Particles can be either charged alpha or beta particles or neutral neutron or gamma rays.

Real-Time—an application in which information is received and immediately responded to over a short period of time and without any long delays for final results.

Regional Emergency Planning Group—a hospital's participation in a regional/community planning group to assist in developing a vehicle for collaboration, planning, communication, information sharing, and coordination activities before, during, or after a regional emergency.

Regional Planning Group—a group of individuals who represent various area institutions that meet to coordinate in the planning for a disaster or emergency response in that specific region.

Regional System—an established network of institutions based on mutual collaboration for the exchange of inputs and the creation of common services. The system would enhance capabilities by avoiding duplication of effort; promoting common services and products; increasing the availability of information; and reducing costs, response time to information requests, and barriers to information dissemination.

Respiratory protection program—requires the employer to develop and implement a written respiratory protection program with required worksite-specific procedures and elements for required respirator use. The program must be administered by a suitably trained program administrator. In addition, certain program elements may be required for voluntary use to prevent potential hazards associated with the use of the respirator.

Safety Officer—a member of the Hospital Incident Command Staff responsible for monitoring and assessing safety hazards or unsafe situations, and for developing measures for ensuring personnel safety. The Safety Officer may have assistants.

Set Up and Staffed Beds—the number of beds that are licensed, physically "set up" and available for use within 24 hours and for which staff are on hand to attend to the patients who occupy the beds. This term is sometimes used interchangeably with the term "operational beds."

Shelter in Place—the strategy of encouraging populations to stay put and take shelter, rather than trying to evacuate. 

Surge—a transient sudden rise in demand for health care following an incident with real or perceived adverse health effects.

Surge Cache—extra medication, supplies, and equipment available for sudden increase of patients due to an emergency/disaster.

Surveillance—the systematic ongoing collection, collation, and analysis of data and the timely dissemination of information to those who need to know so that action can be taken. Surveillance is the essential feature of epidemiological practice.

Triage—rules for which the rationing of response to an incident are based. Neither the rationing rules of triage, nor the timeline for implementing triage, are implied by the concept of triage, but must be determined and stated separately.

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Note: Files can be accessed with free viewers if proprietary software is not available.

American Hospital Association Resource Center

AcadiaNet: Glossary of Terms

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: Surge Capacity and Health System Preparedness

American College of Surgeons

Army Smallpox Acronym List

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): The Health Alert Network

Convention on Biological Diversity

Department of Defense, U.S. Army Soldier and Biological Chemical Command: Interim Planning Guide to Improve Local and State Agency Response to Terrorist Incidents Involving Biological Weapons [PDF Help]

DQU, Inc.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Guide for All-Hazard Emergency Operations Planning Glossary of Terms [PDF Help]

Health Canada Glossary

Health Resources & Services Administration

Homeland Security Presidential Directive 8 National Preparedness


Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations

Minnesota Department of Health

Minnesota Medical Association

National Incident Management System

New Mexico Department of Health All Hazard Incident Management Glossary
First Edition, January 2004


Occupational Safety and Health Administration Standards Respiratory Protection

Ready.Gov Glossary

Regional Disaster Information Center

Regional Laboratory for Toxicology Disclaimer

Tabor's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary

University of Melbourne Environment Health and Safety Manual: Environment and Safety in the Workplace

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration. Women's Health USA 2005.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Utah Department of Health Bioterrorism and Emergency Response Glossary and Acronym List (No longer accessible)

Washington State Department of Health Glossary and Acronyms

Webster's Dictionary

The White House: HSPD-8

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AHRQ Publication No. 07-0016-EF
Current as of April 2007


The information on this page is archived and provided for reference purposes only.


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