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2.1 Summary

Protecting the health and safety of the public in the District requires action by all branches of government. Many government agencies have specific responsibilities in relation to public health emergencies. It is important that these agencies coordinate their efforts when preparing for, responding to, and recovering from disasters and emergencies.

2.2 The Mayor of the District of Columbia

Under the District of Columbia Home Rule Act, approved December 24, 1973 (87 Stat. 803; D.C. Official Code § 1-201.01 et seq. (2012 Repl.)), the Mayor of the District of Columbia (Mayor) has executive power over the District and is the chief executive officer of the District government. The Mayor is responsible for properly executing all laws relating to the District. D.C. Official Code § 1-204.22.

The Mayor has broad powers in public health emergencies, including the ability to detain individuals having or suspected of having a communicable disease, as well as the ability to declare public emergencies and public health emergencies. Many of these authorities have been delegated to DC Health.

Executive Office of the Mayor,

2.3 Council of the District of Columbia

The Council of the District of Columbia (D.C. Council) has legislative power in the District. Subject to certain limitations, the D.C. Council has authority to create, abolish, or organize any office, agency, department, or instrumentality of the District government and to define the powers, duties, and responsibilities of any such office, agency, department, or instrumentality. D.C. Official Code § 1-204.04. The D.C. Council’s central role as a legislative body is to make laws. However, its responsibilities also include oversight of multiple agencies, commissions, boards, and other instruments of District government. The D.C. Council is composed of 13 members and led by the D.C. Council Chairman.

The D.C. Council has the power to extend Mayoral emergency declarations by adopting emergency acts.

Council of the District of Columbia,

2.4 DC Health

DC Health promotes and protects the health, safety, and quality of life of residents, visitors, and those conducting business in the District. In doing so, DC Health has numerous responsibilities related to public health emergencies, including:

  • Identifying health risks;
  • Preventing and controlling the spread of disease;
  • Preventing injuries and exposure to environmental hazards; and
  • Educating and communicating with the public.

See Appendix 4.0 of the Manual for a DC Health organizational chart.

The DC Health Director has broad authority to detain individuals for the purposes of quarantine, isolation, treatment, and examination if they have, or are suspected of having, a communicable disease. In addition, the DC Health Director is the conduit for all reporting related to communicable disease and has power to inspect public and private property during communicable disease investigations.

DC Health,

2.4.1    Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Administration

The Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Administration (HEPRA), part of DC Health, is responsible for ensuring the delivery of the highest quality emergency medical and trauma care services through regulatory oversight of all emergency medical services provided in the District. In addition, HEPRA is responsible for planning, implementing, and directing public health emergency preparedness and response for the District.

HEPRA is the lead for Emergency Support Function (ESF) #8 – Public Health and Medical Services – under the District Response Plan (DRP). ESFs are mechanisms for grouping governmental and certain private sector capabilities into an organizational structure to coordinate federal support to states after an incident. There are 15 ESFs under the National Response Framework. ESF #8 provides the mechanism for coordinated federal assistance to supplement state, tribal, and local resources in response to the following:

  • Public health and medical care needs;
  • Veterinary and/or animal health issues in coordination with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA);
  • Potential or actual incidents of national significance; and
  • A developing potential health and medical situation.

HEPRA works to ensure that DC Health and its partners are prepared to respond in accordance with all functions under ESF #8, including:

  • Assessment of public health/medical needs;
  • Public health surveillance;
  • Medical care personnel;
  • Medical equipment and supplies;
  • Patient movement;
  • Hospital care;
  • Outpatient services;
  • Victim decontamination;
  • Safety and security of human drugs, biologics, medical devices, veterinary drugs, etc.;
  • Blood products and services;
  • Food safety and security;
  • Agriculture feed safety and security;
  • Worker health and safety;
  • All hazard consultation and technical assistance and support;
  • Mental health and substance abuse care;
  • Public health and medical information;
  • Vector control;
  • Potable water/wastewater and solid waste disposal, and other environmental health issues;
  • Victim identification/mortuary services; and
  • Veterinary services.

DC Health, Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Administration,

The DRP is updated every five years. The District is in the process of updating the DRP as of Fall 2019.

2.4.2     District of Columbia Emergency Support Function #8 DC Health, Health and Medical Coalition

The District of Columbia ESF #8 DC Health, Health and Medical Coalition (DC Health-HMC) is the strategic planning committee and advisor to the DC Health Director. Its purpose is to:

  • Foster partnerships with government agencies, healthcare providers, and community partners working together to promote, consolidate, and coordinate a unified response to emergencies affecting the District and to promote the emergency preparedness and response capabilities of District health and medical entities by strengthening medical surge capacity and capabilities;
  • Build relationships and partnerships for community resiliency;
  • Facilitate communication, information, and resource sharing;
  • Maximize movement and utilization of limited existing resources; and
  • Coordinate training, drills, and exercises between local, state, and federal partners.

2.5 District of Columbia Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency

The District of Columbia Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA) is responsible for leading the planning and coordination of homeland security and emergency management efforts to ensure that the District is prepared to prevent, protect against, respond to, mitigate, and recover from all threats and hazards. HSEMA is responsible for coordinating the delivery of federal assistance to District agencies.

District of Columbia Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency,

2.6 District of Columbia Office of the Attorney General

The District of Columbia Office of the Attorney General (OAG) advises and provides legal representation to District agencies, officers, and employees. OAG attorneys are responsible for ensuring that governmental actions are legally permissible, and for bringing certain actions related to protection of the public health in the District of Columbia Superior Court (Superior Court) (e.g., detaining individuals). 

District of Columbia Office of the Attorney General,

2.7 District of Columbia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner

The District of Columbia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) is responsible for investigating all deaths in the District that occur as the result of violence or injury, as well as those that occur unexpectedly, without medical attention, in custody, or pose a threat to public health.

District of Columbia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner,

2.8 District of Columbia Courts

The District courts are comprised of the Superior Court and the District of Columbia Court of Appeals (Court of Appeals). The Superior Court has jurisdiction of any civil action or other matter (at law or in equity) brought in the District and of any criminal case under any law applicable exclusively to the District. Under District law, the Superior Court has jurisdiction over cases involving the detention of individuals and groups. See, e.g., D.C. Official Code § 7-134. The Court of Appeals has jurisdiction of appeals from the Superior Court and, to the extent provided by law, may review orders and decisions of the Mayor, the Council, or any agency of the District. D.C. Official Code § 1-204.31.  

Counsel may be appointed by the court for individuals in all cases where an individual faces a loss of liberty and the United States Constitution or any other law requires such appointment of counsel. D.C. Official Code § 11-2602.

District of Columbia Courts,

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