An Overview of Public Health Emergency Operations Centre

A PHEOC is a physical location for the coordination of information and resources to support incident management activities. PHEOCs are also referred to as “EOC”, “operations centres”, “situation rooms” and “command centres”. They play a vital role in the management and coordination of public health emergencies, and they are hubs for coordinating the preparedness, response and recovery processes for public health emergencies using a multisectoral approach, and even public health emergency preparedness and response projects.

Effective PHEOCs can swiftly detect a broad range of public health risks by combining inputs from a range of surveillance systems. They can then swiftly notify high-level leadership and relevant stakeholders. This helps to ensure that appropriate actions are taken promptly to prevent or lessen the effects of a potential threat. In essence, a PHEOC is a platform to streamline the flow of information and the allocation of resources needed to manage incidents. A PHEOC is designed to ensure a goal-oriented response to public health emergencies and unity of effort among response agencies, strengthening their effectiveness in the face of acute crises.

Timely implementation of a PHEOC can help to avoid typical gaps like delayed decision making due to unclear leadership, resource mismanagement and inadequate coordination. Timely implementation of a PHEOC provides an essential platform for the management of public health emergencies and can help avoid common failings such as lack of clear leadership leading to delayed decision making, mismanagement of resources and poor coordination.

BioTalk: An Overview of Public Health Emergency Operations Centre (PHEOC)

The objectives of any EOC (health or any other response agency) must fit its purpose. Both the outcomes
and the costs of managing an event must be considered in setting the objectives. Objectives may include:

  • Timely, event-specific operational decision-making using the best available information, policy,
    technical advice and plans
  • Communication and coordination with response partners
  • Collection, collation, analysis, presentation and utilization of event data and information
  • Acquisition and deployment of resources, including surge capacity, services and material to support all EOC functions
  • Preparation of public communications and coordination with response partners to support audience
    awareness, outreach and social mobilisation
  • Monitoring financial commitments and providing administrative services for the PHEOC.

The five essential functions of the PHEOC are:

  1. Management – responsible for overall operation of incidents or events (including coordinating
    risk communication and liaison with other agencies)
  2. Operations – at the field level, this function provides direct response to the incident or event;
    at higher levels, it provides coordination and technical guidance
  3. Planning – collection of data, analysis, and planning of future actions based on the likely
    course of the incident and the resources available for the response
  4. Logistics – this function acquires, tracks, stores, stages, maintains, and disposes of material
    resources required for the response. It also provides services in support of the response, such as
    health services for responders
  5. Finance and administration – cash flow management; tracking of material and human resource costs; budget preparation and monitoring; and production and maintenance of administrative records.
    These functions may be activated or deactivated as needed with the evolution of an event.
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