NAHLN Exercises and Drills

NAHLN Exercises and Drills

NAHLN Exercises and Drills Working Group
The NAHLN Exercises and Drills Working Group (NAHLN-EDWG) plays a key role in the development and implementation of exercises and drills conducted by the NAHLN. The findings of this working group enhance awareness of the variety of issues that are encountered during an outbreak and ongoing evaluation for the NAHLN Coordinating Council. The group provides input on various aspects of NAHLN exercises and drills including:

  • Determine a process for performing NAHLN exercises and drills
  • Determine the content and scope of exercises to ensure they address laboratory preparedness
  • Assist in the deployment of NAHLN exercises and drills
  • Assist in the compilation and distribution of After Action Reports following NAHLN exercises and drills
  • Assist in addressing gaps outlined by the After Action Reports following NAHLN exercises and drills and in implementing changes.

Web-Based Exercises
NAHLN conducts web-based exercises in which NAHLN laboratories and States have the opportunity to use and integrate the Laboratory Capacity Estimation Model (LCEM), the NAHLN Portal, and several other VS tools in one exercise. The goal is to improve the participants' understanding and skill in each individual tool, as well as illustrate how these assets could integrate to provide current, accurate information on the expected number of samples to be tested under an outbreak surveillance plan; individual laboratory and network capacity; and a secure mechanism to exchange operational information during an outbreak.

Foot-and-Mouth Disease Exercise 
The NAHLN, in collaboration with the National Agriculture Biosecurity Center (NABC) at Kansas State University (KSU) and the CNA Corporation, coordinated a series of foot-and- mouth (FMD) table-top exercises based on recommendations from the highly pathogenic avian influenza table-top exercise series in 2008. In April 2010, representatives from multiple Veterinary Services (VS) program units participated in the first component of these exercises-- a policy-level workshop with the objectives to: identify existing policies related to laboratories; NAHLN activation and sample shipping during an FMD outbreak; determine roles and responsibilities of individual units related to laboratory decisions prior, during and following an FMD outbreak; and clearly define gaps and processes for VS to address prior and during the subsequent exercises. The second component of the exercise series involved a simulated FMD outbreak in Kansas and Iowa in order to examine early-, mid-, and late-response laboratory activities regarding the decision-making process for NAHLN activation and deactivation; testing capacity at each of the State's NAHLN laboratories; surveillance sample collection protocols; testing algorithms; integration of surveillance and testing results; and communication and coordination processes. The third component of the exercises consisted of 15 follow-up exercises in NAHLN laboratories across the country, each involving single or multiple States. These exercises were designed to practice policy implementation, decision-making, and communication identified in the first two components of the series with laboratory, VS, and State field personnel. Individual exercise reports were shared with participants. An overall summary report, including findings and recommendations, was generated and will be shared with stakeholders. Additional exercises were held at the NVSL to increase internal preparedness with focus on decision-making, primary and support role activities, interaction and support of NAHLN laboratories, collaboration, and communication. A wrap-up VS policy workshop was held in late spring 2011 to complete the policy matrix and included findings and existing gaps in VS policy.

Avian Influenza Tabletop Exercise
This exercise moved the participants through challenges encountered during an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza. Participants gained enhanced awareness of laboratory issues they will encounter during an outbreak and had the opportunity to assess the completeness of their response plans. In total, 38 exercises were conducted from February to October 2008. The exercises involved more than 700 participants, representing 45 States and numerous Federal, State, and local agencies as well as the poultry industry.

Hurricane Irene Drill

On Friday August 26, 2011, Hurricane Irene was heading straight for Plum Island, NY. In preparation for this potentially disastrous occurrence, an email was sent to all NAHLN laboratories that had personnel trained and proficiency tested to conduct the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) PCR. The e-mail notified the laboratories of the possible closure of Plum Island due to the hurricane and requested that each lab provide the following information:

  • How many FMD PCRs could the lab conduct based on the amount of control on hand? Answers were requested based the lab's current amplification platforms and the number of runs that could be conducted.
  • How many FMD PCRs could the lab conduct based on the amount of primer on hand?
  • How many FMD PCRs could the lab conduct based on the amount of probe on hand?
  • Labs were asked to provide the same information on the capabilities of any branch locations.

26 of the 38 laboratories (68%) responded within 24 hrs.

Same day (Fri.) within 1 hour  
Same day (Fri.) within 2 hours  
Same day (Fri.) within 3 hours  
Same day (Fri.) > than 3 hours  


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