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At times of disaster, first responder agencies have to operate in effective coordination and maintain communication channels in order to cope with the complex challenge.
The Science Advisory Guide for Emergencies (SAGE) is a supplemental tool that provides the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) with up-to-date scientific and technical support for homeland security threats, emergencies, and major disasters.
Best practices maintained in SAGE are accomplished through a robust network of subject matter experts (SMEs) who, during times of need, are ready to provide the DHS Secretary with a current and reliable assessment of how to respond to the threat at hand, as well as to recommend the most appropriate preparedness measures and post-event recovery steps.
In June 2019, S&T, in coordination with the governments of Canada and the UK, organized a trilateral exercise aimed at testing the robustness of SAGE under a hypothetical scenario focused around a national-level response to a public health threat, an infectious pathogen.
The U.S. response to the hypothetical scenario was split into two phases:
In the first phase, a team was assembled to assess the threat: determining a possible cause, identifying at-risk populations, and specifying the key stakeholders, like which agencies were responsible for directly responding to the threat.
In the second phase, SAGE was activated, and S&T leadership worked with SMEs to find answers to the DHS Secretary’s pressing questions.
Preliminary outcomes of the exercise on the U.S.’s part showed strong two-way communication underlining SAGE as a key part to ensuring the success of S&T leadership’s role as the main science advisor to the DHS Secretary.
During the scenario, S&T leadership demonstrated quick and extensive access to SMEs with backgrounds in academia, government, and industry, allowing for a comprehensive and rapid response to DHS Secretary inquiries, as reported in newswise.com.