Two decades of emergency preparedness

The Global Center for Health Security is the culmination of 20 years of persistence, planning and training at UNMC to build emergency preparedness capacity.

The Nebraska Public Health Laboratory was established at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in 1997 through a cooperative agreement between the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and Nebraska Medicine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) later provided grant funding for testing of bio-threat and chemical agents.

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, UNMC was among several entities nationwide to receive federal funding for bioterrorism preparedness.

In 2004, UNMC, in conjunction with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, and Nebraska Medicine, began planning the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit. It opened in 2005, as the largest such unit in the nation, set up to handle highly contagious and deadly infectious conditions, including: SARS, smallpox, plague, Ebola virus disease and other viral hemorrhagic fevers.

In the ensuing decade, unit personnel prepared for the day(s) the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit would be needed.

In 2014, the U.S. Department of State asked the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit to care for deployed Americans  with Ebola. Two patients were safely and successfully treated and released; a third arrived gravely ill, and died afterThank you, Nebraska Biocontainment Unit team two days of treatment.

By late 2014, the Nebraska Ebola Method for safely caring for patients with infectious pathogens, is made available as an online course and resource, for the public and for clinicians. The team also offered CDC courses on campus.

The team was praised nationally, including by President Barack Obama. “The Ebola Fighters” were named Midlanders of the Year by the Omaha World-Herald newspaper.

In 2015, Nebraska teamed up with Emory University in Atlanta and Bellevue Hospital Center in New York City, on a $12 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to establish and co-lead the nation's National Ebola Training and Education Center (NETEC).

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2016 awarded nearly $20 million to UNMC and Nebraska Medicine to develop a national Training, Simulation and Quarantine Center (TSQC).

In 2017, UNMC and Nebraska Medicine established the Global Center for Health Security as the umbrella entity to oversee the entirety of its biopreparedness efforts.

UNMC’s Dr. Edwin G. & Dorothy Balbach Davis Global Center, which houses the Training, Simulation & Quarantine Center, with state-of-the-art quarantine facilities, clinical simulation infrastructure and training lab, opened in 2019.

In 2020, the National Quarantine Unit and the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit were activated during the COVID-19 outbreak, working closely with federal partners.