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Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
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NAHLN Exercises and Drills

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:

  • Determining processes for performing NAHLN exercises and drills
  • Determining the content and scope of exercises to ensure they address laboratory preparedness
  • Assisting with conducting NAHLN exercises and drills
  • Assisting with compiling and distributing distribution of After Action Reports following NAHLN exercises and drills
  • Assisting with addressing gaps identified by the After Action Reports and in implementing changes.

Web-Based Exercises

The NAHLN program office conducts web-based exercises that provide NAHLN laboratories and States the opportunity to use and integrate the Laboratory Capacity Estimation Model (LCEM), the NAHLN Portal, and several other VS tools to exercise real-time capacity management. The goals of these exercises are to; improve the participants' understanding and skill in each individual tool,  illustrate how these assets can integrate to provide current, accurate information on the expected number of samples to be tested under an outbreak surveillance plan, assess individual laboratory and network capacity, and provide a secure mechanism to exchange operational information during an outbreak..

Table-Top Exercises 

NAHLN, in collaboration with other stakeholder groups, has conducted several table-top exercises to help identify gaps when addressing major animal disease outbreaks. These exercises were designed to practice policy implementation, decision-making, and communications with laboratory, VS, and State field personnel. Participants gained enhanced awareness of laboratory issues encountered during an outbreak and assessed the completeness of their response plans. Additional exercises have been held at the NVSL to increase internal preparedness with focus on decision-making, primary and support role activities, interaction and support of NAHLN laboratories, collaborations, and communications.

Immediate Response Drills

In preparation for potentially disastrous occurrences such as severe weather or man-made emergencies, the NAHLN program office has initiated immediate response drills to help labs understand what they may see in response to an actual event. Emails are sent to all NAHLN laboratories that have personnel trained and proficiency tested to conduct a particular disease assay such as Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) PCR. The e-mail notifies the laboratories of the possible closure of the reference laboratories and requests that each lab provide specific information as soon as possible (within 24 hours of receiving the email) regarding their immediate capacity based on the availability of reagents, personnel, equipment, and other parameters. NAHLN laboratories have proven that the network is very responsive with up to 98% of labs responding to these drills within 24 hours.


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