The University of Minnesota Pandemic Influenza Response Plan is an annex to the broader campus emergency operations plan. The plan outlines specific response actions in 12 areas:
- Officer of the Day (campus level official in charge)
- Internal/External Coordination-Academic Health Center
- Internal/External Coordination-Emergency Management
- Campus Infrastructure
- Dining Services
- Health Services
- Human Resources
- Public Health Response
A Pandemic Influenza Response Team was formed by designating four employees in each response area (one lead and three back-ups for redundancy). During a pandemic, these employees have the authority to represent their respective response area in an incident command structure. The following additional personnel were also added to the team based upon lessons learned from tabletop exercises:
- Office of the President
- Office of General Counsel
- University Services Administration
- Office of International Programs
- Environmental Health and Safety
- Office of Information Technology
The resulting team, including back-ups, includes approximately 75 employees. This group received ongoing information throughout the H1N1 response primary through e-mail messages. On two occasions, H1N1 briefings were conducted in the Emergency Operations Center (EOC). This represented an important opportunity for team members, particularly back-up employees, to experience the physical set-up and check-in requirements at the EOC. For briefing meetings, the EOC was set up as if it were activated for pandemic response. Each response area was required to send at least one representative, although all four representatives were welcome to attend. The meeting agendas included an H1N1 update and status reports from each response area. For one meeting, we included coordinate campuses through video conferencing.
Response team members also submitted situation reports, one from each response area. Early in H1N1 response, those were collected daily. Reports were sent to a designated person each day by 4:30 p.m.; a compilation report was created and distributed back out each evening. Daily situation reports were collected from April 30-May 8, 2009. Information from those reports was used to create a lessons learned document and improvement plan during the summer months.
Weekly situation reports were collected from Sept. 1-April 9, 2010. Team members received an automatic reminder e-mail each Friday morning. Reports were due to a centralized e-mail address by noon; a compilation report was created and distributed back out by the end of the business day. Using a centralized e-mail address allowed for greater flexibility in staffing the situation report process. Moving the report deadline to noon eliminated the need for compilation in the evening. Weekly situation reports were forwarded to state and county health officials to enhance collaboration.
The Pandemic Influenza Response Team concept worked extremely well during H1N1 response. Although the entire team is a large group, the size is a result of a standard that each area designates a lead and three back-ups. Although the University of Minnesota did not experience high levels of illness and absenteeism among this group due to H1N1, clearly its experience may be different in the future. Due to the team's heavy reliance on e-mail communications, each team member must create and submit a secondary (g-mail) address. The University of Minnesota also created an automated phone notification system that could be used in the rare situation when team members need to reach all members rapidly by phone. Office, home, and cell phone numbers are included in that system. Smaller groups were also formed as needed to address specific areas of concern. For example, a Communications Group with representatives from public health, health services, and communications was formed which met by phone every Tuesday morning to ensure accurate, consistent messaging.