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UW School of Public Health Gets Prepared

NWCPHP organized a 50-person tabletop exercise aimed to strengthen the UW School of Public Health's emergency preparedness response.

NWCPHP organized a 50-person tabletop exercise aimed to strengthen the UW School of Public Health's emergency preparedness response.

April 14, 2010

On Thursday, April 8, 2010, approximately 50 people gathered on the University of Washington (UW) campus to participate in a tabletop exercise aimed at strengthening the School of Public Health’s emergency preparedness response within the context of a larger University and community responses. The Northwest Center for Public Health Practice organized the event, which was the second in a series. The previous one was held on March 3, 2009.

The primary focus was on continuity of School of Public Health operations during emergencies. Both tabletop exercises  were based upon scenarios in which a pandemic flu event in the area causes major absenteeism, disruption in classes and research and suspension of school operations. Last year's tabletop helped departments within the School of Public Health to identify strengths and weaknesses within the current policies and plans.

This year, the exercise focused on the School of Public Health's ability to operationalize those plans to ensure business, academic and research continuity. As the scenario progressed, participants used an electronic audience response system to anonymously answer questions regarding their ability to carry out the emergency preparedness plans. The variation in answers prompted discussion amongst the participants and explored inconsistencies and possible solutions.

SPH tabletop drill 2010

The tabletop was well-attended by the School of Public Health dean, associate deans, media relations, department chairs and administrators, faculty, staff, student representatives, and others.

In addition to the participants, there was a table of "Resource Persons," which included participants from local, state and federal public health organizations, the UW emergency management office among others.

A preliminary result was great dialogue and an illumination of UW School of Public Health's strengths and challenges in business, research, and academic continuity planning. The entire tabletop was evaluated by onsite evaluators and participant surveys. Those results will be reviewed and the materials from the tabletop made available to other public health departments and UW academic units who may wish to conduct the same exercise to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their policies.

Last year's business continuity tabletop focusing on pandemic flu and absenteeism is available on CD-ROM at no charge.

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