In November 2015, the Georgia Department of Public Health participated in a three-day statewide full-scale exercise. This exercise included the activation of Georgia’s 18 public health district’s Emergency Operation Centers (EOCs) and designated Points of Dispensing (PODs) sites around the state.
Prior to the exercise, the health department spent numerous months creating the exercise scenario, developing injects, and finalizing all details and logistics. While in this planning phase, it was important for the health department to include administrative preparedness injects since state and local health departments (LHDs) now incorporate administrative and fiscal processes into their emergency response plans. To do this, the Exercise Coordinator worked with the grants and contracts staff within the Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response, in the Division of Health Protection. The finance team modified injects created by NACCHO, making them more applicable to Georgia’s Department of Public Health and exercise scenario.
During the exercise, as administrative preparedness injects were played, a resource request was sent to the Georgia Department of Public Health’s WebEOC and assigned to the administrative and finance section. Once assigned, the resource request was either completed at the state level or sent down to the local level for completion. Administrative preparedness injects over the three-day exercise included funding, procurement, and contracting. Specifically, the injects allowed the administrative and finance teams to expedite a contract with a transportation company to secure additional vehicles, report staff time for federal reimbursement, and prepare a purchase requisition for additional printing of emergency screening forms.
Administrative Preparedness Promising Practices
To ensure that fiscal and administrative authorities and practices are used and effectively managed in a public health emergency, the Georgia Department of Public Health incorporates administrative preparedness practices into their day-to-day work. As other health departments at both the state and local level work to improve administrative preparedness, they may want to include the following practices:
- Include Administrative Preparedness In All Exercises
Health departments at both the state and local levels need to make sure administrative preparedness is incorporated into all exercise planning. This means that staff members on the administrative and finance teams should be included in all planning meetings and in the development of exercise injects. By including administrative preparedness in exercises, staff members will have time to get acclimated to administrative preparedness and will seamlessly include it into future responses.
- Build Relationships
Health departments need to build relationships with individuals who work within the grants and contracts departments at all levels of government. It is important for emergency preparedness staff to cultivate these relationships and get to know these individuals (e.g., finance team members, Chief Financial Officer) so that during an emergency, it is not the first time health departments are interacting with them. By building this rapport, health departments can reduce the time needed to respond and recover from a public health emergency.
- Develop Administrative Preparedness Protocols and Procedures
Prior to an emergency, health departments should develop administrative preparedness plans, policies, and procedures highlighting tasks that may need to be expedited during an emergency. For example, the Georgia Department of Public Health has developed a plan so they can procure additional funding if needed. In the event of an emergency, Georgia’s health department can utilize their plans and work with the Budget Director to successfully accelerate the process of securing additional funding. Once these processes and plans were implemented, all levels of Georgia’s administrative and finance teams began to incorporate them into their day-to-day activities.
Lessons Learned From the Full-Scale Exercise
While there is always room for growth and improvement, all levels of Georgia’s administrative and finance teams feel that they are prepared to handle expedited procedures when it comes to administrative preparedness. In future, the Georgia Department of Public Health would like to have more administrative preparedness injects played during an exercise. They would also like to add a local level perspective by having individuals at LHDs engage with them throughout the planning process. Finally, they would like to develop an administrative preparedness group that can conceptualize what administrative preparedness is and how it can be folded into the exercise more.
How is your local health department incorporating administrative preparedness into future exercises or day-to-day work? Let us know in the comment section below.