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More than 50 participants from various departments within Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune gathered for the first Continuity of Operations Tabletop Exercise held at the Chief Westfield building on the NHCL campus aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Dec. 1. The importance of the drill was to establish plans to support the base with medical capabilities during either a man-made or natural disasters.

Photo by Pfc. Nik S. Phongsisattanak

Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune maintains readiness

1 Dec 2011 | Pfc. Nik S. Phongsisattanak

When work is carried out with the same sense of routine, day after day, week after week, life can be monotonous and boring. For patrons working at Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, the change to the daily routine is usually broken up by the varieties of patients who step in for care. 

If a tornado were to hit the hospital, however, panic and chaos might take its place. This is likely, unless the hospital and staff is ready to handle such dire situations.

Luckily, readiness is of prime importance to the leaders aboard the base and at NHCL. The first Continuity of Operations Tabletop Exercise was held at the Chief Westfield building on the NHCL campus aboard MCB Camp Lejeune, Dec. 1.

“The importance of the drill is to establish plans to support the base with medical capabilities even when we’ve been degraded by either man-made or natural disasters,” said Mark Starnes, emergency manager with NHCL.

More than 50 participants from various departments within NHCL arrived with their standard operating procedures in hand for the group drill. Various agencies such as Onslow Memorial Hospital, North Carolina Emergency Management, Onslow County Emergency Operations Center and Marine Corps Base Emergency Operations Center were also onsite to assist with technical questions.

“The focus of the exercise is to be able to make sure that each individual department within the hospital validates their emergency plans, and validates the details within those plans,” said Jim Marker, exercise support staff with Camber Corporation, which provides simulation based tools and services for training, mission planning, rehearsal, after-action reviews, virtual reality command and control and engineering analysis. “In addition, they’ll be identifying short falls in their plans.”

The participants in the drill were given scenarios such as a tornado that damages NHCL, and allowed a caucus period where they collectively discussed their plan of action. They assessed the hospital’s ability to respond to destructive weather incident, and identified the gaps in the current continuity of operations plan and emergency response plan.

Objectives of the NHCL’s Continuity of Operations exercise included:

• Identify, discuss, evaluate and validate mission essential functions in order to maintain continuity of operations.

• Assess the staff’s ability to continue critical patient care and restore critical mission essential functions within 12 hours.

• Evaluate procedures for managing a response recovery to a destructive whether incident.

• Evaluate communication process and reporting procedures between responders, action officers, hospital, installation leadership, installation populace and the surrounding community.

“The drill was to make sure that we could identify and agree on what our mission essential functions are,” said Starnes. “The goal is to develop a web-based EOC, to better communicate with base emergency operation center as well as the other departments.”

The NHCL web EOC is how the hospital shares information to the base.

“We can put in a request and anyone with access can look up patients, occupancy, or track patients and staff going out or coming in,” added Starnes. “What we are setting up is in the National Incident Management System, and the frame work is based on incident commands that we set up, it keeps everyone on the same sheet of music.”

Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune’s Tarawa Terrance housing area was hit by tornado earlier this year. Sometimes, Mother Nature is unpredictable, but the leaders aboard MCB Camp Lejeune have learned to expect the unexpected.

According to Starnes, an after-action report was completed for the drill, Monday, with improvements on SOPs, check-lists, memorandum of understandings and memorandums of agreement.