182166 COOP planning for local health departments

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Michael Stallings, JD , University of Maryland Center for Health and Homeland Security, Baltimore, MD
Meghan Butasek, MPH , Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, Baltimore City Health Department, Baltimore, MD
Local health departments play an important role during small and large-scale emergency scenarios. Depending on the incident, the capacity and capability of a health department to respond to such emergencies could be severely disrupted. Despite these disruptions, a local health department must ensure continuity of operations to conduct essential functions, such as performing surveillance, implementing infection control procedures, and delivering health care services. Continuity of Operations (COOP) planning is vital to prepare a local health department to serve the public during emergencies and disasters.

The University of Maryland Center for Health and Homeland Security (CHHS) recently partnered with the Baltimore City Health Department (BCHD) to create a COOP plan for the Department. This plan will allow BCHD to function and serve the public during any emergency or disaster. The CHHS plan updated an existing draft that was created “in-house,” but did not adequately address all of BCHD's needs. CHHS staff worked with BCHD to build the plan into a workable document trough a series of interviews with key BCHD personnel. These interviews identified or redefined all: essential functions; vital records, equipment, and documents; essential emergency personnel, alternate facility capabilities and requirements; and communications capabilities and requirements. The final plan incorporated BCHD's existing emergency plans and its Incident Command System.

CHHS has used this method successfully for a variety of governmental and nongovernmental agencies and it offers a promising strategy for local health departments to maintain essential operations while implementing procedures for dealing with any emergency scenario.

Learning Objectives:
• Recognize the importance of local health departments maintaining essential functions during an emergency scenario. • Articulate the major goals of an implemented COOP Plan. • Identify major obstacles facing local health departments in the wake of an emergency scenario. • Discuss the importance of funding and senior level support of a viable health department COOP plan. • Develop a COOP plan that incorporates and works with other emergency planning within a health department, such as protocols for pandemic flu. • Recognize the COOP plan as a “living document” that must be regularly updated by health department personnel.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Conducted COOP Planning and Exercise for Baltimore City Health Department from September 2007-Present.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.