This exercise was conducted at the request of the Monmouth County Health Officers and the Monmouth County Health Department in order to comply with the NJ Department of Health and Senior Services programmatic requirement for an annual exercise. The objective of the exercise was to assess the relationships between state, county, and local public health agencies and their local Offices of Emergency Management in response to a pandemic influenza emergency and the opening of emergency shelters in the face of an oncoming hurricane.
To achieve this objective, the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program, February 2007, Response Mission was used and the target capabilities selected included: Emergency Public Information and Warning, CBRNE Detection, Epidemiological Surveillance and Investigation, Responder Safety and Health, and Mass Care (Sheltering, Feeding, and Related Services). The scenario that was developed to achieve this objective and assess these capabilities was a pandemic influenza breakout that spread to the United States and eventually to New Jersey and Monmouth County; and, because nature does not take a break while mankind is facing one disaster, the scenario included a hurricane which would strike the New Jersey coast in order to satisfy the Mass Care requirement.
The three major strengths identified during the exercise were: communication, coordination and cooperation between agencies from the state to local health departments; plans are up to date and continuously modified or changed as conditions warrant; and training and exercises are ongoing based on identified needs. The primary areas for improvement were identified for inclusion in the Improvement Plan and the Multi-Year Training and Exercise Plan.
Other participants included the NJ Department of Health and Senior Services, the Visiting Nurse Association of Central Jersey, the American Red Cross Central Jersey Chapter, Health South Rehabilitation Hospital of Tinton Falls, and local Offices of Emergency Management and Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT).
Since 2003, this is the third exercise The James Thomas Group (TJTG) has conducted for the Monmouth County Regional Health Officers (HO) and the Monmouth County Health Department (HD); they have also participated in three other exercises TJTG has conducted for the U.S. Army Garrison-Fort Monmouth. They are truly professional organizations that have continually increased their capabilities to respond to the onslaught of a pandemic. They look to exercises such as this to review their plans, see what works, find out what gaps have to be closed, and constantly close these gaps as they are identified.
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