A U.S. Africa Command team traveled to Senegal on Sunday, September 19, 2010 to plan for an upcoming Pandemic Influenza (PI) Table Top Exercise in Senegal, which is tentatively scheduled for May 2011.
The exercise was requested by the government of Senegal following a recent regional PI exercise in Benin, which included three representatives from Senegal who participated in the event.
The team arriving in Senegal included two Humanitarian and Health Activities Branch Program Officers, Lieutenant Colonel Gotlewski, representing the Pandemic Response Program (PRP) and Major Christopher Holmes, representing the Disaster Planning and Preparedness Program as well as Sergeant Major Bispo, from SPP, facilitator and French translator.
The following blog is by Lieutenant Colonel Jim Gotlewski, U.S. AFRICOM Pandemic Response Program:
During our visit, we met with representatives from the U.S. Embassy, U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Red Cross. We also visited a training site where Gendarme, military, Red Cross and local role-player volunteers were practicing triage techniques, respiratory precautions and other components of the Senegalese response plans. We stayed overnight in the nearby town of Dagana.
The next morning the team visited the Senegalese Emergency Operations Center (EOC), which was set up in a hotel in Richard Toll. The EOC operated very efficiently. They had primary and alternate means of communication established and a clear chain of command. In addition to public service announcements via radio and television they also videotaped the exercise for future use.
After a couple of hours observing at that location, the team travelled to the triage site in town. The operation there was equally impressive. The Gendarme and military had established inner and outer cordons around the designated triage site. These limits were strictly enforced. To enter the inner cordon each person signed in and then was assisted by Red Cross personnel to gown, glove and mask. The triage site included a treatment tent with local role players as victims, a quarantine area for those exposed, but not ill and a morgue trailer for the dead. In addition to multiple emergency vehicles there was also decontamination equipment in use.
After observing the site, wewent through the exit procedures, which included removal of personal protective equipment, (PPE), hand washing and assessment of axillary temperatures.
Major Holmes, who has observed and participated in several hundred similar exercises in his civilian career in the US, stated that “This is one of the most disciplined, well written and executed exercises I have observed.” The next inject in the exercise involved a response to a report of another outbreak at a refugee camp which turned out to be false. This led to a live press conference at the EOC to implement rumor control. After this the team attended an outbrief at the EOC.
We were invited by an NGO, also at the exercise, to observe a novel low-tech water purification system that had been installed in a nearby village as part of a pilot project. The system was impressive in its simplicity and effectiveness. Additional information on the system was brought back by the team.
That evening we attended a dinner held for the primary participants at the home of the local Red Cross president. The following day we returned to Dakar. The final day was spent in follow up meetings at the Embassy, Ministry of Health, Red Cross and World Food Program offices.
The team departed Senegal Friday evening, September 24, and arrived back in Stuttgart on Saturday. Overall the trip exceeded the expectations of the team. Additional engagements will follow with a Senegalese PI TTX tentatively scheduled for May 2011.