Increased emergency preparedness exercise requirements from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and The Joint Commission, in conjunction with limited hospital and health system staff time and resources led the Northwest Wisconsin Health Care Coalition and Western Wisconsin Public Health Readiness Consortium to conduct its first virtual, community-based exercise November 6 and 7. The “Big Bad Thing” exercise simulated a ransomware cyberattack resulting in widespread power outages and telecommunication failures in the upper Midwest health care sector.
On November 6, exercise participants were alerted that a “Big Bad Thing” was going to happen the following day. On November 7, participants were guided through the exercise by logging into the web-based Adobe Connect platform. As situation reports were added to the scenario by the controller, Aimee Wollman Nesseth, coordinator of the Northwest Wisconsin Health Care Coalition, each participating organization played out the exercise in its own facility. The exercise encouraged participants to discuss and identify gaps in their plans and included the expectation of reaching out to community partners, which would be essential in a real-life shelter-in-place or evacuation scenario.
Participants in the exercise included hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, home health and hospice agencies, and local public health departments.
“We had partners participating from throughout the 15 counties in the region comprising the Northwest Wisconsin Health Care Coalition,” said Wollman Nesseth. “This virtual exercise was a great example of how the health care coalition model can build community and regional partnerships across the health care sector.”