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Health Command's Important Role During Winter Storm Jonas


DHHR’s Health Command is activated when certain trigger points indicate that an Incident Command System (ICS) is needed to respond to an event that has the potential to harm the public’s health or interrupt the vital services the Department provides to West Virginia residents.

In this way, Health Command augments the State Emergency Operations Center by acting as the health and medical component of Homeland Security. Often manned by DHHR’s Center for Threat Preparedness (CTP) staff and other response partners who work in the Department, Health Command is the only entity in state government that supports both the public health and health care systems in the state.

Along with other state and local agencies, Health Command was activated and staffed around the clock during the response to Winter Storm Jonas. Health Command officially “stood up” or activated at 8:00 a.m. on Friday, January 22 and “stood down” Sunday, January 24 at 7:00 a.m. During this time, staff worked through five operational periods, knowing full-well when they reported that day that the chances of a second shift arriving later for relief was unlikely due to impending impassable road conditions.

Due to the workload, those who reported worked long hours, rotating on cots for two-hour sleep shifts as needed. During that time, Health Command participated in National Weather Service and Homeland Security briefings twice a day, held regularly-scheduled calls with both Bureau for Public Health leadership and local health department representatives, monitored various response systems, weather maps, media outlets and social media accounts to gain situational awareness and a common operating picture for command staff and leadership, documented activities in situational reports, and much more.

Thankfully, the snow initially fell in a much dryer form than was first forecasted, and there was only limited damage and power outage. The biggest issue was road access, given the sheer volume of snow and the speed in which it fell.

“Once again, DHHR maintained many essential services during an emergency and helped maintain vital health and medical systems throughout the state,” said CTP Director Jerry Rhodes. “I’m proud of the CTP staff and other DHHR employees and partners who went above and beyond to serve West Virginians through the storm.”

Contact Information

Luke Mitchell, (304) 558-6900
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Center for Threat Preparedness | 505 Capitol Street, Suite 200, Charleston, WV 25301 | Ph: 304.558.6900 | Fx: 304.558.0464
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