Emergency Operations Center

Many organizations in the world have Emergency Operations Centers (EOC) to monitor situations and help the organization respond to emergencies within their area of responsibility and which may impact their operations. When I served as the Army Medical Command representative to the Department of Health and Human Services, I spent many hours in the Secretary’s Operations Center (SOC), the EOC equivalent. There we planned and executed responses to the cholera outbreak in Haiti, the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear accident in Japan, the Arab Spring, and many floods and other natural disasters. I did the same thing in military headquarters and other organizations throughout my career, such as being the Public Health Emergency Officer for the US Army in Southern Germany, Fort Bliss TX and the Atlantic Regional Health Command.

Some churches and other faith based organizations respond to disasters and other emergencies with food, water, medical, and other resources, but every church, and every Christian, must respond to such events with prayer. The Virtual EOC is a place where individuals and groups can get the information that they need to know what is going on in the world and therefore what to pray for. We use it for our prayer times every evening.

Additionally, people and organizations may wish to respond to the events here with money, food, supplies, time, or in some other way. The MDHarris Institute team has helped build houses in the Caribbean, repair churches in Chicago, treat the sick in Central America, and proclaim the gospel in Asia.

Whether you wish to pray, to give money, to inform others, to go yourself, or a combination, the links will take you where you need to go. Further is a discussion of Chemical, Biological, Nuclear, and high Explosive (CBRNE) incidents, and a database including war, terror, and CBRNE incidents since the beginning of recorded history. The Virtual EOC Images are samples of an Incident Command Team, the phases of disasters, and the phases of psychological reactions to disasters.

In the United States, disaster response is divided into categories called Emergency Support Functions (ESF). Each ESF involves different requirements and has different groups with primary responsibility. For example, ESF 8 is medical and the US Department of Health and Human Services has primary responsibility.

Emergency Support functions

  1. ESF1    Transportation
  2. ESF2    Communications
  3. ESF3    Public Works and Engineering
  4. ESF4    Firefighting
  5. ESF5    Emergency Management
  6. ESF6    Mass Care, Housing, and Human Services
  7. ESF7    Resources Support
  8. ESF8    Public Health and Medical Services
  9. ESF9    Urban Search and Rescue
  10. ESF10  Oil and Hazardous Materials Response
  11. ESF11  Agriculture and Natural Resources
  12. ESF12  Energy
  13. ESF13  Public Safety and Security
  14. ESF14  Long-term Community Recovery and Mitigation
  15. ESF15  External Affairs

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 Aircraft Incidents

  1. Aircraft accidents
  2. FAA Accident and Incident Data

Animal Incidents

  1. Alligator and crocodile attacks
  2. Sharks (Florida Natural History)

Crime Operations 

  1. Community Crime Map – LexisNexis
  2. Crime Reports – US and Canadian crime information by locality

 Disaster Operations

  1. Emergency Events Database (EMDAT – UN and Belgium)
  2. Environmental Emergencies Center (WHO, OCHA)
  3. Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (United Nations and European Commission)
  4. Pacific Disaster Center
  5. Relief Web – Global disaster management information
  6. RSOE Emergency Disaster and Information Service

Disease Outbreak Operations

  1. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (US CDC)
  2. HealthMap – Disease outbreak mapping worldwide
  3. Viral Outbreak Maps

Incident Databases

  1. US General Mortality Database (CDC)

Individual, Family and Community Disaster Preparedness

  1. American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) – Readiness
  2. International SOS (ISOS) – Medical and Travel Security and Medical Evacuation
  3. Internet Mapping to Aid Humanitarian Operations – Humanitarian Open Street Map

International Organizations

  1. European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (EC/EU)
  2. European Commission Public Health (EC/EU)
  3. Pan American Health Organization (UN)
  4. World Health Organization (UN)

Response Organizations

  1. Baptist Global Response – Christian disaster relief and development
  2. Brethren Disaster Ministries – Christian disaster relief
  3. Business Executives for National Security – Partnership of businesses for security, including disaster preparation and response.
  4. Corporation for National and Community Service
  5. Food for the Hungry – Christian ministry addressing short and long term hunger
  6. Hands On Network – Nonprofit volunteer organization including disaster relief
  7. Humanitarian Response
  8. International Committee of the Red Cross – Disaster relief
  9. International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
  10. Médecins Sans Frontières – International medical relief
  11. Mennonite Disaster Service  
  12. National Disaster Interfaith Network
  13. National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster – Nonprofit, nonpartisan US disaster coalition
  14. Points of Light – Volunteer foundation
  15. Samaritan’s Purse – Christian disaster relief
  16. World Vision – Christian disaster relief


  1. Cybersecurity – US Department of Homeland Security
  2. Economic security – US Department of Homeland Security
  3. Transportation security – US Department of Homeland Security


  1. FBI Counterterrorism
  2. National Counterterrorism Center
  3. Rand Terrorism Database (RAND)
  4. US State Department Bureau of Counterterrorism (Annual Country Reports)

 Training and US Government

  1. Emergency System for Advance Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals (ESAR-VHP) 
  2. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) – Readiness
  3. FEMA Incident Command System resource center 
  4. FEMA Emergency Management Institute – Disaster Training
  5. National Interagency Fire Center  
  6. Sphere Handbook  
  7. Yale-Tulane ESF-8 University  

Weather, Earth and Climate

  1. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
  2. NOAA Climate
  3. NOAA National Hurricane Center
  4. NOAA National Weather Service
  5. NOAA Storm Prediction Center
  6. US Geological Survey (USGS)
  7. USGS Earthquake Hazards
  8. USGS Water Watch (floods)
  9. Weather Channel

Personal and Team Preparation for Humanitarian Response

It is not enough to know about emergencies and other needs throughout the world; we must act to help others and our world. In many cases, we must go. Please see the Virtual Medical Center for websites helping people prepare to go.

For more information on what you can do to intervene in events and issues throughout your community and the world, please read How Ordinary People Can Contribute to Extraordinary Change. When you plan to go yourself, review Medical Preparation for Humanitarian Missions to help you prepare well.

Sometimes it is hard to know how people should make sense of disasters and other misfortunes. Are they purely natural events or do they have a deeper significance. For a discussion on that topic, please see Earthquakes, Hurricanes, Epidemics and Other Misfortunes.

Disaster, Terror, War, and CBRNE

Though we may wish that chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive threats were a thing of the past, they are not. The United States has foresworn chemical and biological weapons, but many other nations, including many potential adversaries, have not. Furthermore, many of these threats occur in the natural environment (biological) or in routine industrial processes. For example, anthrax is found in the soil everywhere in the world, and phosgene is found around arc welding, metal degreasing, and pesticide manufacture.  This database provides a large sample of natural and man-made incidents involving CBRNE materials.

Disasters are life altering events for whole populations, even those who were not directly affected. The American Millennial generation was defined by the Terrorist Attacks of 9-11. The Lisbon Earthquake of 1759 shook all of Europe, and its cultural aftershocks are evident still today. Even the death of one man makes a difference; who of those that came of age in the 1960s was not shaped by the assassination of JFK.

Chemical weapons – chemicals, usually synthetic, used to sicken, maim and kill adversaries. First used by the Germans in World War I, many industrialized nations including the United States developed extensive chemical weapons programs in the 1920s to 1960s. Agents include mustard (sulfur and nitrogen), Lewisite, and nerve agents (GA, GB, GD, and VX). The United States has destroyed over 90% of its chemical weapons stockpile and has only nerve and mustard agent remaining. The last stockpiles are at special destruction facilities in two sites, Pueblo, CO and Richmond, KY.  Defensive research on chemical weapons is ongoing. Many toxic industrial chemicals such as chlorine, cyanide, phosgene, and organophosphate pesticides (malathione) have also been used as chemical weapons and have been involved in dangerous incidents.

Biological weapons – viruses, bacteria and other natural microorganisms used to sicken, maim and kill adversaries. These typically include anthrax, botulism, brucellosis, plague, smallpox, tularemia, and viral hemorrhagic fevers (including Ebola, Hantavirus, and many more). The US military has no biological weapons but continues defensive research.

Radiological weapons – By common military usage, this refers to conventional weapons (such as high explosives) contaminated with radioactive material (such as I-131, C-137, S-90). This does not include nuclear weapons. The United States does defensive research on radiological weapons but neither has nor uses them.

Nuclear weapons – The “atom bomb” uses a fission process to split atoms and the “hydrogen bomb” uses a fusion process to “melt them together.” “Little Boy” used on Hiroshima, Japan on 6 Aug 1945, and “fat boy” used on Nagasaki, Japan on 9 Aug 1945 both use fission.  There have been no recorded instances of a fusion weapon being used, but the risk is significant. After the fall of the Soviet Union, thousands of devices and personnel that could be used to make nuclear weapons were unaccounted for. North Korea and Pakistan, both state sponsors of terrorism, have nuclear devices. Iran, another sponsor, is close to making one. In 2012, the Federation of American Scientists estimated that there were 12,000 nuclear weapons worldwide, of which 4,000 could readily be used.

Explosive weapons – Gunpowder, trinitrotoluene (TNT), nitroglycerin, nitrocellulose, RDX (C4), Pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) and other explosives have been used for 500 years for peaceful and violent pursuits. They are the most common type of military and terrorist weapon. The internet has sites describing how to construct such weapons with readily available materials. Timothy McVeigh’s attack on the Alfred P Murrah Building in Oklahoma City is an example.

For more information, please visit the following resources:

  1. The Center for Nonproliferation Studies
  2. Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction
  3. Clarion Project – Counterterrorism think tank
  4. National Counterproliferation Center
  5. Stimson Center: Biological and Chemical Weapons

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