The Oregon Office of Emergency Management and the Oregon Health Authority’s Public Health Division participated in the FEMA Integrated Emergency Management Courses at the end of August. It was the first time that FEMA had adapted the training to a public health audience. Forty-six participants represented the Oregon Public Health Division (OPHD) of the Oregon Health Authority, as well as Oregon hospitals. The class was held at the Courtyard Marriott in downtown Portland. The exercise was conducted in the Agency Operations Center at the Portland State Office Building and included only OPHD staff.
The FEMA training exercise was originally developed a year-and-a-half ago through the Oregon Office of Emergency Management (OEM). It evolved into an integrated emergency management course that focused on teaching and enhancing emergency management skills to higher-level staff, both during and after a disaster.
Participants spent four days learning communication strategies and response tactics to different emergency disaster situations and provided a return demonstration of their understanding through role-play. OPHD staff were assigned various responsibilities and roles under differing scenarios and worked their way through a crisis. OEM staff assumed roles representing various agency partners, including EMS staff, media and government officials. Represented agencies, acting as spectators from the field, contacted OPHD to ask questions, request updates and provide information. In return, OPHD fielded these requests under varied roles, coordinating within the department as well as outside the agency. Lyn Neal, OPHD senior all hazards planner, noted, “Any opportunity for us to work together is invaluable practice, which only increases our ability to respond effectively during a real world event.”
FEMA focused this exercise on the role of public health during an emergency. For example, massive flooding can result in an infestation of mosquitoes potentially carrying West Nile Virus. OEM’s responsibility is to quickly assess and secure the community and residents in this scenario. Public health, however, must begin to collect information about the mosquitoes, including assessing where they potentially came from, tracking their activities, and determining whether any infections developed. Additionally, public health professionals must coordinate with various agencies to keep this information current and accurate while keeping the public calm and informed.
“Public health is special and unique,” said K.J. Craigmiles, EMAC coordinator for OEM. t comes with its own set of equipment … and public health staff have their own questions to ask.”
Craigmiles noted that the collaboration was a “win-win” for both partners. OPHD staff received emergency management training and OEM received feedback. This allowed OEM to modify the exercise, tailoring it to meet the needs of public health professionals.
Anyone interested in training exercises or further information may send inquiries to K.J. Craigmiles, Oregon Emergency Management.
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