PHOTO: The Ocean County Health Department (OCHD) invited several of its county and hospital-based partners to participate in a “tabletop” exercise regarding a county-wide response to Ebola this past Friday, November 21, 2014. Ocean County Freeholder Gerry P. Little, Liaison to the Ocean County Board of Health, who participated in this event, said, “It is extremely important that Ocean County be prepared to respond to a confirmed or suspect case of Ebola. We needed to determine the current resources available and be able to identify any gaps in Ocean County’s ability to respond to an incident involving Ebola or any novel (new) disease situation. Agencies participating in this exercise included:
- Ocean County Sheriff’s Department
- Ocean County Office of Emergency Management
- Ocean County Health Department
- Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office
- Ocean County Department of Human Services
- Ocean County Police Chief’s Association
- Meridian Health Care System
- Barnabas Health Care System
- Community Health Centers
- County and Municipal Emergency Medical Services
- Berkeley HAZMAT
- Long Beach Island Health Department
- Health Care Association of New Jersey
- Ocean County Fire Coordinator
Daniel Regenye, OCHD Public Health Coordinator, said, “The response would include the emergency operational coordination, information sharing and focus on responder safety and health. Our County response teams continuously exercise their responses to situations. Ebola is something that we have not seen in the United States before and it is imperative that all the responding agencies work together, have a plan and identify any addition resources, etc., with the county health department and area hospitals.
Regenye, added, “We invited David Weidener, Director of Emergency Preparedness, Health Care Association of New Jersey, to facilitate this table top exercise. Mr. Weidener focused on three different scenarios with objectives including how healthcare/public health agencies will coordinate and implement an emergency response to someone with Ebola, how these agencies will coordinate and share information with local agencies, hospitals and state partners and how healthcare agencies will protect employees while providing care and treatment with someone with a novel disease. Mr. Weidener studied the responses to date in the United States to Ebola, mistakes that might have been avoided, and lessons learned so he could base questions for responses from public health, emergency medical services, hospitals, laboratories, law enforcement, etc. The scenarios offered agencies the opportunity to discuss their current plans and assure seamless coordination during their implementation. It gave all present the chance to discuss varying options and possible solutions.” Regenye added, “Not only did we see a variety of options, plans and concerns, it gave all people who would respond in this situation an opportunity to work together in a low-stress, no-fault environment.
Regenye continued, “We hope, in the near future, to have a full-scale “exercise.” The tabletop exercise brought the right people to the table to talk about this. Many of our concerns such, as personal protective equipment, transportation, disinfecting, quarantining of contacts, etc., were discussed. In a full-scale exercise, we would address any issue that would be related to someone who may be infected with Ebola.”
The Ocean County Health Department has linked with the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) on its website so people can view resources on Ebola. The Health Department has also offered to come to any agency to discuss prevention and transmission of Ebola. Regenye said that groups who have taken the time to become educated about Ebola and realize that this is not an easy disease to get, in fact you must have direct personal contact with someone who is SICK with Ebola, have put many of their concerns and fears aside. Groups can all 732-341-9700, ext. 7224, if they would like a presentation provided to them.