University of Minnesota — Simulations, Exercises, and Effective Education Preparedness and Emergency Response Learning Center (U-SEEE PERLC)
Global Outbreak: A Public Health Incident Command System (ICS) Simulation
How do controller-led in situ simulations affect team function, dynamics, and communications among staff responsible for public health emergency operations and coordination at a state health department? U-SEEE PERLC partnered with the Minnesota Department of Health to develop an online simulation-based training to address gaps identified in findings from the research project, “Creating High Reliability Teams for Public Health Preparedness.” Despite completing numerous ICS classes, research participants experienced difficulty applying the concepts to public health response activities. Possible explanations for this are; (a) ICS courses provide few examples focused on public health scenarios, and (b) Health Department Operations Center (DOC) exercises are not frequent enough for trained or new staff. Researchers proposed that interdisciplinary team effectiveness could be learned during in situ simulations.
The “Global Outbreak: A Public Health ICS Simulation”was created to provide another tool to help health department staff prepare for their role in a DOC. The focus of the simulation is not to duplicate existing ICS training; rather application of learned concepts to a public health scenario
In the online simulation, the players:
- Choose their role as DOC Operations, Planning, or Logistics Section Chief
- Apply concepts from previous ICS training
- Follow the steps in the “Planning P” process during the first operational period
- Attend DOC briefings and meetings
- Decide who should handle incoming requests and issues
- Determine the best course of action for items on their to-do list
- Monitor how their decisions impact stress, resources, and public response
During the simulation, players move between abbreviated depictions of meetings and briefings that occur as part of the planning process (such as the Tactics Meeting) and interactive play where players choose a course of action in response to incoming communications and items on their position checklist.
One MDH pilot tester captures the benefit and potential offered by Global Outbreak:
“The primary benefit of this simulation, from my perspective, is that it provides a very life-like reminder of the different ICS roles and how those roles function during an event. This is so important because, as you know, many months can elapse between incidents, and even exercises; thus, it provides an always-accessible training tool to provide instant refresh of prior trainings. For me, that was the most important role of the simulation – and one which, frankly, I don’t see from any other training tool I’ve been exposed to.” – MDH Pilot Tester
As U-SEEE PERLC continues the rollout of Global Outbreak to state and local health departments, an iPad version is still under construction as well as a suite of “Companion Materials.” These materials will include video clips from the simulation and supplemental discussion questions that can be used to incorporate Global Outbreak into group trainings, fostering discussions among people in different roles.
Participate in the simulation at http://www.sph.umn.edu/ce/perl/outbreaksim/