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ICS in Action: Regional and Local Teams Complete Incident Management Workshop and Exercise

PODEX 2024

ICS in Action: Public Health PODEX24

Over 75 people from the Western region, including university students and Buncombe County staff, participated in a two-day tabletop training and functional exercise hosted by Buncombe County Health and Human Services. The purpose of the training was to familiarize staff with the process of using Incident Command System (ICS) fundamentals to organize and manage a Local Incident Management Team for a public health response. 

A Dual-Team Approach to Incident Management

Public health and government officials from across the region created two teams, each tasked with navigating through a simulated public health emergency scenario designed to test and enhance readiness and operational coordination. The first team was a local Incident Management Team from Buncombe County, comprised of staff from CAPE, Emergency Services, Clinical Services, Environmental Health, Communicable Disease, and Public Health Senior Leadership.

The second team presented a broader regional representation, including Preparedness Coordinators, Emergency Management Planners, and Public Information Officers from Avery, Mitchell, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Madison, Yancey, McDowell, Rutherford, and Burke counties. The exercise underscored the importance of regional cooperation in public health crises, where shared resources and coordinated communication strategies are vital for effective incident management.

PODEX24 proved to be a valuable training opportunity for the positions of Safety Officer, Public Information Officer, and Liaison Officer, filled by Emergency Services and multiple CAPE Team members. The scenario also created an opportunity for a novel approach to language access through the addition of a Language Access Officer, as a single resource for both teams. The exercise tested the County’s ability to handle crisis communication, language access, public engagement, equity-focused outreach, and information dissemination to the public and media in a public health crisis.

The regional collaboration added a different perspective to the exercise, facilitating a valuable exchange of ideas, resources, and strategies. Nathan Greene, Public Health Preparedness Officer, stressed the importance of regional and local trainings and exercise as not only critical for emergencies but also as the building blocks for relationships and trust, saying, "This workshop allowed us to practice with our public health team to create a solid incident action plan and put the plan to work while using ICS. By involving regional partners, we were able to share insights to improve our emergency capabilities. This effort not only strengthens our readiness but also establishes our team as a vital response asset for our community and the wider region.”

A standout feature of the exercise was the Buncombe County Public Health Mobile Team. Recognized as an operational task force asset within Buncombe County Health and Human Services, the mobile team worked to plan during the tabletop and then exercise their operational capabilities in the functional exercise on day 2 at Trinity Baptist Church in West Asheville.

Exercise participants included students from Western Carolina University School of Nursing and UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, who filled the roles of vaccinators and screeners. Their participation prepared the participants for real-world public health emergencies by offering a hands-on experience in managing a mass prophylaxis response.

Additional exercise partners included NC Department of Public Health Preparedness and Response, Foothills Health District Workforce Development, Buncombe County HHS Language Access Team, Buncombe County Emergency Services, and Trinity Baptist Church. Thanks to all partners for an engaged and productive training series.


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Updated May 16, 2024 02:10 PM
Published May 13, 2024 12:06 PM

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