Hartford tests Ebola procedures in realistic simulation

Challenge

The Hartford, Connecticut Metro Areas’ Capitol Region Council of Governments (CRCOG) hosted a regional full-scale exercise to test elements of a newly developed Concept of Operations (ConOps) for High Consequence Diseases. Exercise planners engaged 16 participating health departments and districts, as well as the Connecticut Virtual Operations Support Team (CT VOST) in practicing the new ConOps to coordinate Ebola-related response and information management activities.

The CRCOG needed a way to add realism and mimic the high-stakes, high-profile environment of an Ebola outbreak.

Approach

Exercise planners used SimulationDeck to emulate social media platforms, online broadcast and newspaper venues, blog pages and other internet sites. Within this private, virtual training environment, newspaper stories covered the rapidly evolving outbreak in West Africa while simulated members of the public posted comments on social media platforms. Over the weeklong exercise, rumors from simulated Connecticut residents began to appear on social media and video blogs and speculation from newspapers and radio news broadcasts heightened public concern about the threat of an Ebola outbreak spreading to the United States.

Results

SimulationDeck’s realistic information environment enabled exercise participants to practice new ConOps processes to coordinate Ebola-related response and information management activities. The CT VOST, tasked with supporting the participating hospitals and health departments, monitored the mock media and social media accounts for misinformation, trending topics and questions that would assist healthcare providers in tailoring their messages. In response to real-time information provided by the VOST, hospitals and health departments responded to rumors, answered questions and posted other emergency-related information to their own simulated social media accounts and web pages hosted on SimulationDeck. After testing the ConOps in a realistic, high-pressure exercise environment, CROG and CT VOST members were able to validate the plan and identify ways to make regional coordination even more effective in the future.

“During past exercises our attempts at mock media play either through a SimCell or face-to-face were woefully inadequate, never yielding sufficient outputs to identify strengths or areas of improvements for our exercise participants. With the use of SimulationDeck for our High Consequence Disease exercise, our participating organizations received outstanding simulation media play and injects from media professionals.

- Carmine Centrella
Program Director Capitol Region Metropolitan Medical Response System

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