IOM performs Ebola emergency airport simulation exercise in Sierra Leone

16 Jan

On 12 January, IOM implemented an emergency simulation exercise in Sierra Leone’s Lungi International Airport to test and improve the entry and exit health screening process and general health security throughout the airport.

This came after a case of Ebola was confirmed among airport workers on 2nd January raising the risk  of its spread among workers and travelers. With an estimated 1,500 people working in the airport, the main health threat is that of airport staff moving in and out from hot-spots to their work place.

To face the challenge, IOM plotted six possible response scenarios to run consecutively to test the operation of the various airport agencies in simulated health emergencies.

About 100 people including medical screeners, port health, cleaners, army, police and Westminster Aviation Security Services, a private airport security provider, participated in the exercise. By displaying simulated symptoms of Ebola, giving support, taking control of the simulated situation, then disinfecting quarantined areas, units worked with an eye towards facilitating collaboration between airport agencies.

Five Ebola survivors were recruited as ‘actors’ in the exercise.

Identifying gaps in health defence systems, and highlighting and targeting areas for further training were among the objectives of the exercise to improve the airport’s security.

“In health emergencies, the greatest challenge is swiftly organizing the medical professionals to assume command and control of the situation, requiring confidence, communication and practice,” said IOM’s health and humanitarian border management officer, Ben Potter.  “The emergency simulation exercise provides the perfect environment to rehearse and refine these skills. Knowledge is great, but in an emergency, if you can’t perform under pressure it is worthless.”

Kaffu Bullom Chiefdom, where the airport is situated, has been placed under quarantine.

IOM, together with the British Army, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), and Lungi International Airport have implemented the Airport Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for travelers and employees screening and health monitoring, management action flowchart, and staff information posters.

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