Lab Matters Spring 2018 - Page 7

public health preparedness and response Preparing for the Super Bowl: Minnesota Gets Ahead of the Game by Samuel Abrams, MPH, PMP, specialist, APHL Public Health Preparedness and Response and Maureen Sullivan, MPH, laboratory supervisor, Minnesota Department of Health Emergency Preparedness and Response The Super Bowl, one of the country’s largest annual sporting events, draws massive crowds to the town hosting the game. But while most are watching the game and enjoying feasts of chicken wings and pizza, laboratories in the region are working behind-the-scenes to ensure the safety of thousands of fans. This past February, it was the turn of the Minnesota Department of Health–Public Health Laboratory (MDH-PHL) to protect Super Bowl crowds as Minneapolis hosted Super Bowl LII. Preparation and Collaboration Although events like the Super Bowl last only a few hours, laboratory preparation begins many months in advance. Fortunately, MDH-PHL, with over ten years’ experience working with the US Department of Homeland Security’s BioWatch program, had a head start on the process, and, in the weeks leading up to the big event, it ramped up testing capacity and capability to detect aerosolized biothreats. Documenting lessons learned through after-action reports has proven critical in streamlining preparation and improving the cost-effectiveness of laboratory operations for large-scale events. Collaboration proved key to all facets of preparation. MDH-PHL worked closely with regional hospitals, state emergency managers and local public health personnel to conduct readiness training exercises and develop response plans to prepare for an intentional biological attack. It also coordinated with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Guard Civil Support Team, holding routine meetings with representatives and MDH-PHL biological, chemical and radiological laboratory units to ensure testing capacity in the event of a threat. In addition, Minnesota epidemiologists and environmental health specialists increased food inspections and disease surveillance to reduce the possibility of a large outbreak of foodborne illness. In addition, the laboratory continually refines its response plans based on past events. It makes changes and improvements to policies and procedures, and documents lessons learned through after-action reports. These practices have enabled MDH-PHL to streamline preparations and improve the cost- effectiveness of operations for large- scale events. Expecting the Unexpected Fortunately, Super Bowl LII passed without incident, but MDH-PHL would have been ready had the situation been different. Should you find your city has been selected as the site of a major event, you may want to contact MDH-PHL for some pointers. n Years of dealing with the unexpected has helped MDH-PHL to develop effective staff for emergency events. It cross-trains staff and places them on-call to respond to threats at a moment’s notice—all while maintaining the ability to do routine rule-outs. The Emergency Preparedness and Response BioWatch staff. Photo: MDH PublicHealthLabs @APHL Spring 2018 LAB MATTERS 5