Threats to public health are always present. Whether caused by natural, accidental, or intentional means, these threats can lead to the onset of public health incidents. Being prepared to prevent, respond to, and rapidly recover from public health threats is critical for protecting and securing our state's and our nation's public health. Regardless of the threat, an effective public health response begins with an effective public health system with robust systems in place to conduct routine public health activities.
Public health preparedness involves all areas of the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). South Carolina is unique among other states, in that DHEC is the state's public health agency and is also the state's environmental protection agency, hospital and health facility regulatory agency, and ocean and coastal resource management agency. There are diverse, complex functions that must be coordinated in order to respond rapidly and successfully to an act of bioterrorism, a serious epidemic, a hurricane or other public health emergency. Emergency management and response functions are integrated into each program and into each employee's job duties. These functions must be coordinated with the other state agencies and organizations involved in emergency preparedness and operations. This is done largely through joint planning and exercises carried out under the State Emergency Operations Plan.