CHDS alumni respond to COVID-19 pandemic

As the nation’s homeland security educator, many of the Center for Homeland Defense and Security (CHDS) alumni are on the front lines of the battle against the COVID-19 outbreak. Based at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) in Monterey, CA, CHDS participants represent a wide swath of the homeland security enterprise from local, state, tribal, territorial, and federal agencies. So, when the Novel Coronavirus became a global pandemic, it was a major topic of discussion within the CHDS community. In addition to shifting all of our hybrid-delivered master’s courses to online synchronous and asynchronous instruction, we have other efforts underway to support our customers and stakeholders which include Navy, Marine, and other DoD personnel within our networks and their organizations.

  • We have begun conducting weekly online Zoom faculty-facilitated Continuing Education Webinars with our alumni who are already in the midst of the response in order to help them share practices, lessons, ask questions and pose potential future challenges to each other and selected subject matter experts from their own ranks. These are closed sessions in order to allow the participants to share without fear of attribution outside the already close-knit and engaged alumni network. The first session was on March 19thand included nearly 300 participants and future sessions will also include current students in our master’s and executive education courses.
  • Alumni and faculty are very engaged in our CHDS-managed online forum where they are conducting a robust ongoing dialogue on their actions and practices and share documentation for colleagues to consider (e.g., SOPs, policies, guidelines, etc.).
  • We have reached out to our partners in national public safety associations to offer facilitated online workshops similar to those we are conducting weekly with our alumni. The first organizations we are planning with are the National Emergency Management Association (all state EM Directors), the International Association of Emergency Managers (mostly local EM personnel) and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. We are also standing by to assist FEMA along similar lines. “The CHDS Executive Education Program is partnering with national organizations during the COVID-19 response to deliver real-time education for leaders addressing the strategic and policy challenges of the global pandemic,” said Dawn Wilson, Associate Director-CHDS Executive Education Program.  “In addition to the COVID-19 resource library at CHDS, the Executive Education Program is developing an assortment of briefings, webinars, and other remote engagement opportunities both for practitioners dealing with today’s response on the front-line and for leaders and planners contemplating resilience and recovery in the days to come.”
  • From all of the above efforts, we are developing an online resource base for both alumni and external audiences within the Homeland Security Digital Library. Our new COVID-19 Special Collection includes over 1,800+ resources from leading public health organizations and government agencies, including the World Health OrganizationCenters for Disease Control and PreventionCongressional Research Service, and many others, and is being updated daily. This will also include or be linked to the preestablished and research-rich section of our online library.

Initially spurred by dozens of messages on the online alumni forum, the Center organized the first faculty-facilitated Alumni Continuing Education Webinar on March 19. This proactive collaboration is a perfect example of the Center’s ability to remain agile in a dynamic real-world environment.

The webinar was delivered via Zoom video conference platform to nearly 300 attendees and the discussion was moderated by CHDS faculty. Members of the CHDS community submitted their questions in advance to be discussed by the panel of 9 leading experts listed below.

  • Francisco Alvarado-Ramy: Chief Medical Officer, Quarantine and Border Health Services, CDC
  • Dana Hall: Senior Health Consultant, ASPR/HHS, Kansas City, MO
  • Carol Cunningham: State Medical Director, Ohio Department of Public Safety, Division of EMS
  • Chas Eby: Deputy Executive Director, Maryland Emergency Management Agency
  • Aaron Tyerman: Deputy Fire Chief, Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority
  • Don Lowenthal: Lieutenant / Infection Control Officer, Philadelphia Police Department
  • Richard Blatus: Deputy Assistant Chief – Bureau of Operations, New York City Fire Department
  • Jan Ithier: Director, Washington Operations, NORAD & USNORTHCOM
  • Jeffrey Burkett: Deputy Director, Joint Force Development and Design Center, Joint Staff, J-7

The main objectives were to exchange information and share lessons learned by those who will be coordinating policies and strategies to mitigate the threat of COVID-19. The majority of documentation that resulted from the webinar will be published in the Homeland Security Digital Library (HSDL) for future reference and for those who could not attend the webinar. Some of the more impactful discussions centered around self-screening guidelines, quarantine procedures for first responders, drive through testing, over-burdened hospitals, the role of the National Guard, and public-private partnerships to increase testing capabilities.

In addition to the objectives of exchanging smart practices and collaboration across local, state, tribal, territorial and federal agencies, one of the most useful results of this exercise was to provide these practitioners with contacts for future coordination.

Despite the fact this was a completely organic discussion that wasn’t already on the schedule, the webinar was very effective and all of the participants were grateful to be included. CHDS Director of Strategic Communication, Heather Issvoran agreed, “The session was a success due to the expertise our alumni brought to the table. We’re planning to host weekly webinars that will be able to accommodate greater numbers as long as our alumni want to meet and collaborate in real-time.”