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Two Different Drills with Two Different Goals
Event 201, hosted by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health
The Johns Hopkins University is among the entities continuing to put preparedness as a priority. Two separate areas of the university recently held two different tabletop exercises in October 2019 — each with different goals.
On Oct. 18, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, in collaboration with the World Economic Forum and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, hosted Event 201, an exercise simulating a global pandemic, in New York City. The goal was to outline preparedness efforts, response and cooperation from businesses, governments and public health leaders to reduce economic and societal impacts of a pandemic.
“This was a very different kind of exercise compared to a hospital disaster drill,” says Eric Toner, M.D., the exercise’s project director and a senior scholar with the Center for Health Security. “The goal was not to test functional capabilities, but rather to raise awareness of very complicated and difficult policy issues.” Toner, who is CEPAR’s senior adviser and subject matter expert for health security, says, “So, in other words, it is more of an educational tool than a test.”
Event 201 simulated a global outbreak of coronavirus transmitted from bats to pigs to people, which led to a pandemic of coronavirus associated pulmonary syndrome (CAPS). CAPS is a viral illness that can cause a range of health concerns from mild flu-like symptoms to pneumonia and even hospitalization or death.
In the exercise, a mock emergency board was convened to respond to the CAPS pandemic and provide recommendations to deal with issues that develop as a result of the outbreak. The mock board was composed of representatives from various organizations, including the U.S. and China Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, United Nations Foundation, as well as professionals from the airline, hotel and media industries.
Some issues discussed during the exercise were the distribution of medication and medical supplies, the impacts of travel and trade bans, prioritizing financial resources and management of misinformation.
“We think the risk of a severe pandemic is small but real, and the cascading consequences are largely unappreciated,” Toner says. He adds that the outcome of Event 201 showed that there is a “crucial need for public-private collaboration in preparedness and response.”
This is the fourth major policy exercise the Center for Health Security has done since 2001.
The Johns Hopkins University practiced its ability to respond to a crisis at the Homewood campus in its annual tabletop drill on Oct. 30 and 31. The event spanned two half-day sessions and included discussions on the acute response and recovery phases after two fires on campus. The goal of the event was to address the response of extended or large-scale disasters that could take up to 30 days to recover from and to ensure continuity of campus operations.
In the exercise, the first fire started at 10 a.m. at Ames Hall, which has offices, research and teaching labs and classrooms. The fire led to the building’s evacuation and also a power disruption. The second fire happened on the same day at 1:30 p.m. in a café at the Alumni Memorial Residences, a dormitory for freshman students, causing extensive damage to the kitchen.
Participants involved in the exercise included incident command teams who lead the management of incidents at the Homewood campus, Whiting School of Engineering and the Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts & Sciences. Homewood business continuity teams, including management, research, student affairs, information technology, space planning and academics, also participated. Incident command team members from the East Baltimore campus were invited and provided insight on what they would do in a similar scenario in East Baltimore.
“Fire scenarios in these two buildings required actions for the incident command team and many of the business continuity groups involved because of damage and restrictions in the buildings for at least several weeks,” says Chad Clapsadddle, associate dean for finance and administration in the Johns Hopkins University Whiting School of Engineering.
Among the topics discussed during the exercise were identification of all issues that require attention, who makes decisions — and the immediate and follow-up decisions needed — and the type and frequency of communications to leadership and the campus community, among other concerns.
“One of the critical outcomes of these annual exercises, as well as actual events, is the development of confidence and ‘muscle memory’ needed to navigate the management of an actual emergency,” Clapsaddle says, “So folks are now able to quickly understand their roles and define what needs to be worked through in the short-, medium-, and long-term to maintain core university operations.” Clapsaddle says one of the challenges identified from the exercise was to ensure different groups involved in incidents were communicating. As a result, incident command team leaders are updating contact lists for both the incident command teams and the Homewood business continuity teams.
“We hope through education and practice that the Homewood community is prepared to deal with real-life events, can quickly and effectively resolve crises as well as reduce unnecessary loss of life and physical and monetary damage,” Clapsaddle says.
Read more news and information from CEPAR’s Hopkins on Alert.