The Perspective

Practice, Practice, Practice

During National Preparedness Month, the Southern Nevada Health District and its partners encourage everyone to make emergency preparedness plans. But, how do the emergency preparedness teams prepare? It’s like the old joke . . . How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice!

The Health District, like many agencies, created its Office of Public Health Preparedness (OPHP) in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. The role of OPHP is to develop response plans that the Health District will put into place in the event of an emergency, whether it is a natural disaster, a disease outbreak, or a manmade emergency. The plans do not, however, operate in a vacuum. OPHP works with federal, state, and local government agencies, hospitals, emergency responders, and law enforcement, among many others.

Exercises are planned many months in advance. Each allows a specific piece of a plan to be exercised with a set of goals and objectives to be accomplished.

Recently, OPHP coordinated exercises about managing an Ebola patient. Participants in the exercises included emergency responders, city and county government representatives, hospitals, health care partners, the court system, and risk management representatives.

OPHP staff provided three Ebola First Receiver and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) training sessions to reinforce how first responders and health care facilities prepare for the arrival of an Ebola patient.

In the summer and fall, OPHP coordinated two tabletop exercise. The first worked through Ebola waste management protocols regarding materials or medical equipment used in the treatment of an Ebola patient. The other focused on isolation and quarantine issues and reviewed the public health and legal processes for issuing involuntary orders regarding an Ebola patient.

An additional exercise in 2016 tested the ability to safely transport a patient confirmed to have Ebola from a local hospital to one designated as an Ebola Treatment Center by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The goal of this exercise was to clarify agency roles and responsibilities and the inter-agency coordination required between local hospitals, emergency response agencies, law enforcement, and local, state, and federal partners.

Following an exercise or a real-life event, after-action reports provide opportunities to identify what worked, what didn’t work, and how the response could be improved. All of these are then included in updated response plans that will be practiced again and again.

“Exercises allow us to practice and hone our response plans. Each one provides us the opportunity to see our plan in action and assess how it works in concert with our partners as we respond to the needs of our community,” said Dr. Joe Iser, Southern Nevada Health District Chief Health Officer.

Preparedness Resources

The Southern Nevada Health District has information on its website to help families learn about what types of emergencies can occur in Southern Nevada, tools to develop emergency plans, as well as steps to create a family emergency preparedness kit: Emergency Preparedness

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