Montana’s Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) participated in a four-day statewide disaster preparedness exercise known as Operation Last Chance One. Designed to challenge emergency managers and test emergency response systems, the exercise included participation from county and tribal health departments, as well as hospitals and clinics. Operation Last Chance One tested the ability of state and local health departments and their partners to coordinate and communicate effectively during an emergency. More than 500 personnel and volunteers from more than 100 agencies and organizations participated in the exercise. ESRI and ESRI Business Partner GCS were invited to participate.
Volunteering in support of the DPHHS Emergency Operations Center (EOC) planning team, operating under the incident commander, Esri and GCS used ArcGIS Desktop (ArcView) software and ArcWeb Services.
Exercise officials were able to import, visualize, analyze, and create on-the-fly maps for communication and decision-making purposes, tracking the spread of disease over time. The DPHHS GIS team also exchanged information in real time with the Montana Disaster and Emergency Services GIS team to ensure that a common operational picture was established and shared by the participating agencies for disease surveillance, communication, and decision making.
GCS demonstrated the value of GIS during the first scenario, a plane crash that included a chemical release of a suspicious white powder. ArcView and ArcGIS Spatial Analyst were used to show plume modeling, and ArcGIS Network Analyst showed optimized routing and distribution of the strategic national stockpile, mapped resources for incident response, and showed demographic analysis for determining affected populations.
The second scenario tracked a bubonic plague outbreak at a fictitious high school camp. GCS and Esri used ArcView and ArcGIS Spatial Analyst to trace the children from the camp back to their home counties, aggregate data quickly, and analyze potential spread of the disease.
The GIS Team engaged with the Planning Team and epidemiologists from the Operations Team to compare and contrast the results of epidemiological models against simulated real-world reports of suspected and confirmed pneumonic plague cases from around the state. They also investigated ways to improve the accuracy of spatio-temporal models in addressing the rural nature of Montana’s geography.