Community Professionals Unite for a Chemical Emergency Surge Annex Tabletop Exercise

Community Professionals Unite for a Chemical Emergency Surge Annex Tabletop Exercise

The Health Collaborative’s Tri-State Disaster Preparedness Coalition hosted a preparedness and community safety event aimed to simulate real-life scenarios, foster knowledge exchange, and enhance practical skills. 

This past Valentine’s Day, more than 130 professionals in Southwest Ohio showed love to the Greater Cincinnati community, by partaking in a preparedness and community safety event! Public Health Region 6 of Southwest Ohio came together for a Joint Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP) and Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) event: Chemical Emergency Surge Annex Tabletop Exercise. Hosted by The Health Collaborative’s Tri-State Disaster Preparedness Coalition, this event brought together 62 partners and over 134 participants, including hospital employees, public health workers, Fire & EMS personnel, and others. The exercise aimed to simulate real-life scenarios, foster knowledge exchange, and enhance practical skills so our region is fully prepared in the unforeseen event of a mass chemical emergency. 

During the exercise, participants engaged in interactive discussions based on a realistic scenario that could occur. They collaboratively addressed challenges related to a chemical emergency, such as managing contaminated patients, triage, and transportation to area hospitals. They also explored strategies for managing the public’s response during such a chemical event. This included handling increased foot traffic during large gatherings, and other scenarios that occur from the public both in person and through social media platforms. Even sample tweets graced the screen as participants worked through the scenarios! In both small and large groups, participants received a situation manual and reviewed the emergency response plan for the region. By assuming their professional roles, they gained valuable insights and practical experience on how to handle such an event under a wide range of considerations. Facilitation of the entire event and the situation manual’s modules was carried out by a moderator.

Notably, this exercise provided an opportunity to evaluate existing processes and identify areas for improvement in managing chemical emergencies.  Success hinged on effective communication, problem-solving, and collaboration. It highlighted the critical role of preparedness in ensuring a coordinated response during emergencies. One participant shared: “I just want to thank you for having this event and making it an easy space for us to talk about how all of this works collectively!” 

 As we continue to enhance our preparedness, lessons learned from exercises like this contribute to a more resilient and responsive community system. While we always hope for continued safety and well-being, the commitment of HPP & PHEP professionals who attended this exercise ensures our region is ready to respond effectively when needed.  

The Health Collaborative appreciates all participants who joined us for this exercise. A special thanks to staff and others who helped organize, including but not limited to our facilitator Scott Knoll of UC Health, our volunteers Ray Gemmell of Hamilton County LEPC, and Sharron Dimario of University of Cincinnati’s Area Health Education Center. We also owe a tremendous thank you to LaRosa’s for providing lunch to all the hospital and public health heroes in attendance.   

Christina Dew ODH/HPP, Nicole Volpenhine THC, Jessica Skelton THC, Ray Gemmell Hamilton County LEPC, Jill Ernst, THC


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