Health Emergency Response System

The Health Emergency Response Office (HERO) is part of the University's and MHealth’s response system receiving 24/7 notification of all emergencies affecting the health sciences and all health incidents, emergencies or potential health emergencies on campus. HERO personnel follow a response procedure for determining the need for additional internal and external notifications and appropriate response actions.  

Response resources managed by HERO include the following:

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Department Operations Center (DOC) will be established by HERO to coordinate health communication and response actions at the operational level when needed. If an emergency requires full activation of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) as determined by the Officer of the Day, HERO has a designated desk with responsibility for providing leadership for all health and public health response issues and also reviewing all response actions that will significantly impact the health sciences or clinical operations.


HERO maintains content for a health emergencies website and works with URelations during health emergency incidents to update online information and develop messages for the campus community.


HERO has responsibility for maintenance and implementation of the Twin Cities Public Health and Environmental Health Entities in Minnesota Mutual Aid Agreement designed to make personnel, equipment, and other resources available to political subdivisions in the event of an emergency, training, drill or exercise. The parties participating in the agreement are Anoka County, Carver County, Dakota County, Hennepin County, Ramsey County, Scott County, Washington County, City of Bloomington, City of Edina, City of Minneapolis, City of Richfield, City of Brooklyn Park, City of Crystal, City of Hopkins, City of Maplewood, City of Minnetonka, City of St. Louis Park, City of St. Paul, and University of Minnesota.


HERO serves as liaison to MHealth-Fairview, Community-University Health Care Center, Boynton Health, and Dental School Clinics. HERO is also the liaison to the Minnesota Department of Health, and other relevant city and county health departments and/or other health systems related to health emergency planning and response.


The Campus Public Health Officer is a senior administrator with responsibility and authority for overseeing public health emergency response on campus at the discretion of the Officer of the Day. During designated public health emergencies, the Public Health Officer will develop response recommendations for the Officer of the Day in consultation with HERO and other internal and external partners as needed. Depending on the nature of the incident, recommendations may include canceling classes or events, evacuating or closing buildings, or providing preventive medications through mass clinics.


A Health Operations Team is formed whenever a health issues required campus-level oversight and coordination. The members of each Operations Team are determined based upon the preparedness and response needs of the specific situation. Possible members and their roles include:

  • Health Emergency Response Office: Coordinate and facilitate Health Operations Team; coordinate with Campus Public Health Officer; facilitate coordination among U of M affiliated clinical partners to ensure consistent approaches and communications (clinical partners include Boynton Health, CUHCC, Dental School clinics, UMP and MHealth-Fairview); provide information updates to campus leaders; deploy and manage resources through U of M Medical Reserve Corps as needed; address technical and operational needs of all other team members; assist with media interviews as needed. 
  • Building Code Department: Investigate and provide response oversight of possible foodborne illnesses; review and develop recommendations for adjustments to food service and dining facility operations during a likely foodborne illness cluster or outbreak; provide technical expertise on other food related concerns as needed.
  • Boynton Health: Ensure health service providers are informed of health incidents or concern on campus; implement case-finding activities within clinics; collect situational awareness information from Health Advocates as warranted; provide post-exposure prophylaxis or other clinical interventions to students as warranted; draft messages and provide incident communications to student populations; serve as media contact as needed.
  • Housing and Residential Life: Coordinate and implement all communications to residents and staff within the purview of HRL; implement all required response actions within university-owned residential facilities including situation monitoring, employee and resident support, and facility cleaning; assist with developing strategies to address other housing units as needed and appropriate.
  • University Dining Services: Coordinate and implement all communications to dining services staff within the purview of UDS; implement all required response actions within university-owned dining facilities including food handling, employee management, and facility cleaning; assist with developing strategies to address other dining operations as needed and appropriate.
  • URelations: Coordinate internal and external communications; coordinate and facilitate response to members of the media and other stakeholders.
  • GPS Alliance: Provide situational awareness information related to international travel, students, and visitors on campus; coordinate and implement all communications with registered international travelers; implement changes in campus policies and procedures as warranted.
  • Other departments as warranted by the incident: Occupational Health and Safety, Athletics, Office of General Counsel, UMPD, Department of Emergency Management, Department of Environmental Health and Safety, Facilities Management, Office of the Provost, Student Counseling Services, others.


HERO develops, implements, and evaluates tabletop, drill, and functional exercises designed to test response plans and interagency coordination on campus. Staff also actively participate and assist in numerous exercises and drills hosted by partners at the local, regional, and state level.

Example of HERO emergency response role: H1N1 Response on Campus


HERO personnel served in a leadership role (“air traffic control”) to ensure an effective, efficient, and coordinated response to the H1N1 pandemic over an extended period of 12 months.

Incident command

Ensured that key campus leaders, including Officer of the Day, were informed of response actions and issues at all times. Provided routine communications to 75 member operations team to ensure shared understanding of the pandemic and response actions on campus. Compiled daily or weekly situation reports to ensure ongoing situational awareness. Completed successful implementation of a Department Operations Center during the time of heaviest coordination and information needs. Maintained ongoing communications with federal, state and local public health authorities, UMMC, and UMP. 

Vaccine distribution

Facilitated procurement of vaccine from regional partners as needed. Worked with Boynton Health Service to plan and implement vaccine distribution efforts reaching 10,344 students, staff, faculty, and dependents on the Twin Cities campus. Participated in adverse reaction review, interfacing with MDH and ensuring that key administrators were informed as needed.

Human resources

Worked with Human Resources to complete new administrative policy and to ensure that employee questions and concerns were handled consistently and accurately. Convened ad hoc task force to develop personal protective equipment guidelines. Worked closely with Office of Occupational Health and Safety to address various additional worker and student safety issues.


Worked closely with the Provost’s Office on assessment of academic policies, information and support to faculty.  Worked with Office of International Travel to review study abroad program issues. 

Residence halls

Worked with Housing and Residential Life and Boynton Health to develop plans for residence halls including self-isolation procedures. 


Coordinated team of personnel from URelations, HERO, Boynton Health and the Campus Public Health Officer to develop all campus-wide messages and web-based information systems.


Provided numerous and varied presentations internally and externally on our campus plans and response. Invited speaker on H1N1 response at National Association of College and University Attorneys Annual Meeting.