Inside the CDC’s Strategic National Stockpile

“I’ve got a pretty weird job,” Greg Burel, Director of the Division ofStrategic National Stockpile for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told DRI2014 attendees in the CDC’s home city, Atlanta. “I sit there every day, planning to do something I never, ever want to do. The day I have to do what we’ve prepared for will be a very bad day!” 

What Burel does is to plan for emergency scenarios that would require the use of the stockpile — the U.S. national repository of antibiotics, vaccines, chemical antidotes, antitoxins, and other critical medical equipment and supplies. In other words, Burel’s job involves a lot of thinking about pandemics, bioterrorism, and other not-so-rosy subjects.

Fortunately, this also involves a lot of preparation. The most major benchmark test: a simulation of an aerosolized anthrax attack on New York City, to successfully get medicine to millions of people within 48 hours. When it generally takes the first 36 hours to recognize a diagnosis, response time is at a razor-thin margin that the CDC, along with local emergency response coordinators, have to be prepared for.

“As emergency management pros, you should be interested,” Burel told the audience. “If something happens in an area where your business is, you have a responsibility to protect your employees and the community.” He also recommended talking to state and local health officials. “They want to hear if you have capabilities that can help, like an organic logistics or warehousing capability.”

This is especially welcome from organizations with a large employee base, which can work with state and local health agencies to become a “closed point of dispensing,” a place people in the community could go to in the event that emergency medicine was needed (the example Burel used was recent meningitis outbreaks on college campuses).

If you’d like to get more involved with the Strategic National Stockpile, you can read more about it here, and contact Greg Burel via email at


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