The coalition stepped up to the challenge of a four-hour, no-notice exercise earlier this month.

The call to three hospitals at 8 am on Thursday, April 5 started with this message: “This is an exercise. Your facility has been selected to play as an evacuating facility in the Puget Sound Coalition Surge Test. This phone call is your 60-minute notice of the start of the exercise, which will officially begin at 9 am…”. Thus, began the coalition’s first Puget Sound Coalition Surge Test.

A new annual federal requirement, the exercise is designed to measure our coalition’s ability to work collaboratively during a simulated evacuation of 20% of our region’s acute-care hospital bed capacity. For King, Kitsap, and Pierce counties, 20% roughly equates to 1300 acute care patients. All facilities were notified of the two-week window in which the no-notice exercise would occur, but none knew if it would play as an evacuating hospital, a receiving hospital, or support facility.

The three hospitals, UW Medical Center, Swedish First Hill and Seattle Children’s Hospital, were selected to simulate a full evacuation in four hours. The facilities had 60 minutes to prepare, 90 minutes of functional play, followed by a short break and 90 minutes of facilitated discussion to reconcile patient numbers and share lessons learned. Harborview Medical Center also participated in the exercise by activating the county’s Disaster Medical Control Center.

The Network, which organized and facilitated the exercise, also played, activating its Healthcare Emergency Coordination Center to provide situational awareness to healthcare facilities, public health departments, and Disaster Medical Coordination Centers. In addition, the Network piloted a Long-Term Care Response Team, which coordinated with nursing homes around the community to identify bed availability in support of the simulated hospital evacuations.

The exercise concluded with an After-Action Review on April 13, which presented exercise participants and coalition partners with the initial findings observed during the exercise.

An After-Action Report (AAR) will go out for comment by June 4; participants will have two weeks to provide input. Look for a final AAR this summer. More information about the exercise can be found here.