When designing and implementing public health exercises, topical expertise makes a world of difference. Just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, JSI worked with members of the North Central Wisconsin Healthcare Emergency Readiness Coalition (NCW HERC) to plan, implement, and evaluate two virtual discussion-based exercises to strengthen the response capability of public health and health care partners across this large geographic region.
The first exercise focused on planning to meet the unique needs of vulnerable populations in emergencies. Discussion centered on:
- Assessing population needs using the Communication, Maintaining health, Independence, Services and support, Transportation (CMIST) framework.
- Identifying available resources and potential partner roles.
- Identifying partner notification and information sharing mechanisms
With the COVID-19 pandemic looming, the second exercise quickly shifted from a hypothetical to real- world scenario, in order to prepare Coalition members for an eventual need to provide vaccine to front line health care workers. JSI’s leveraged our extensive experience with vaccine-specific closed and open POD planning to plan and facilitate tactical discussions regarding shipping, receipt, storage, intra-health-system transfer, and administration of an eventual vaccine to healthcare system staff.
JSI uses Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) methodology to design, implement and evaluate exercises. In this instance, JSI remotely facilitated Exercise Planning Teams (EPTs) composed of professionals from public health, health care, and emergency medical services (EMS) sectors. JSI, along with the EPTs, outlined objectives for the exercises, finalized exercise objectives, and reviewed exercise materials and logistics.
While virtual facilitation became the norm in the time of COVID, it was also key feature of these pre-pandemic exercises: Virtual facilitation was used to support the participation of critical partners from across this large region, making it possible for over 150 participants based at 11 county health departments to take part. Discussion modules were rolled out to all participants simultaneously, with structured report-out opportunities provided after each module. On-site facilitators and notetakers captured site-specific discussions that were fed into the After Action Report and Improvement Plans.