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Liberia national disaster preparedness coordination exercise: Implementing lessons learned from the West African disaster preparedness initiative

Melinda J. Morton Hamer, MD, MPH, Paul L. Reed, MD, Jane D. Greulich, MPH, Charles W. Beadling, MD


Objective: In light of the recent Ebola outbreak, there is a critical need for effective disaster management systems in Liberia and other West African nations. To this end, the West Africa Disaster Preparedness Initiative held a disaster management exercise in conjunction with the Liberian national government on November 24-25, 2015.

Design: During this tabletop exercise (TTX), interactions within and between the 15 counties and the Liberian national government were conducted and observed to refine and validate the county and national standard operating procedures (SOPs).

Setting: The exercise took place in three regional locations throughout Liberia: Monrovia, Buchanan, and Bong. The TTX format allowed counties to collaborate utilizing open-source software platforms including Ushahidi, Sahana, QGIS, and KoBoCollect.

Participants: Four hundred sixty-seven individuals (representing all 15 counties of Liberia) identified as key actors involved with emergency operations and disaster preparedness participated in the exercise.

Main Outcome Measures: A qualitative survey with open-ended questions was administered to exercise participants to determine needed improvements in the disaster management system in Liberia.

Results: Key findings from the exercise and survey include the need for emergency management infrastructure to extend to the community level, establishment of a national disaster management agency and emergency operations center, customized local SOPs, ongoing surveillance, a disaster exercise program, and the need for effective data sharing and hazard maps.

Conclusions: These regional exercises initiated the process of validating and refining Liberia's national and county-level SOPs. Liberia's participation in this exercise has provided a foundation for advancing its preparedness, response, and recovery capacities and could provide a template for other countries to use.


civil military, humanitarian aid, disaster preparedness, Ebola response

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