On Tuesday, April 23, the Alexandria Health Department conducted a tabletop exercise with Goodwin House Alexandria, a large two-building facility housing nearly 400 residents, including a mix of skilled nursing care, as well as assisted and independent living. This was the second exercise of its kind in Northern Virginia (the first one was also conducted by AHD in 2011), bringing together all partners that might be involved if an emergency requires a high-rise nursing home facility to evacuate patients.
This type of planning is not new but is especially important, given the experiences of New York and New Jersey during Superstorm Sandy. By bringing partners together ahead of time to discuss response actions, agencies can establish relationships that will help them be better prepared for emergencies. Participants included key Goodwin House administrators and staff, operational personnel from the Alexandria Fire Department, Alexandria Police Department, Alexandria Department of Emergency Communications, staff from neighboring nursing home facilities, 2-1-1 Virginia, and the Northern Virginia Hospital Alliance.
In preparation for the exercise, public health emergency preparedness staff, along with representatives from emergency management, fire marshal’s office and Inova Health System, worked with Goodwin House leadership to plan and coordinate the event. The Director of Emergency Management for the Inova Health System served as the exercise facilitator and stimulated many productive discussions in response to two different evacuation scenarios among the stakeholders.
The Alexandria Health Department plans to conduct similar exercises with other healthcare facilities in the City and hopes this will be a model for the rest of the region and the Commonwealth.