Harvard University officials participated April 24 in a mock disaster exercise organized by the city of Cambridge’s Local Emergency Planning Committee. The drill involved local, state, and federal response teams, Cambridge Public Health and School Departments, Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology officials, Boston and Somerville representatives, and other health and environmental organizations.
The purpose of the drill, which simulated a bio-terrorism incident, was to test disaster-response systems that would be activated in an actual emergency. The drill was a “tabletop” exercise, in which managers and other supervisory personnel discussed the actions they would take to respond to different scenarios without physically sending units into the field.
The drill allowed emergency personnel to practice incident response procedures by talking with colleagues from other agencies as they would in the case of an actual emergency. Those who participated in the drill were also able to assess disaster preparedness capabilities, and identify areas for improvements or changes that should be made.
“Within Harvard, we used this occasion to test a number of internal communications procedures,” said Tom Vautin, associate vice president for facilities and environmental services. “It also underscored the need for all of those involved to think beyond individual roles in an effort to respond with only limited information in a compressed time frame.”