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April 18, 2024 (Cleveland, OH)

The Center Provides Emergency Preparedness Planning for the April 8 Eclipse’s Influx of Visitors

While eyes were on the skies earlier this month for the solar eclipse that traveled through Northeast Ohio, behind the scenes, numerous organizations, including The Center for Health Affairs, had spent months preparing for the possibility of an emergency situation which could impact local residents and visitors alike.

The Center for Health Affairs’ emergency preparedness program team was integral to the regional planning activities preceding the eclipse on April 8, which was expected to draw 500,000 visitors to the area. Participating in and convening meetings with healthcare preparedness stakeholders, The Center’s team met with healthcare planners of past eclipse events — including the region’s 2017 eclipse — to discuss what they had learned and what adjustments should be made. This year, in addition to the eclipse visitors, Cleveland was host to the Cleveland Guardians home opener and the NCAA women’s basketball Final Four, both of which were expected to draw considerable sized crowds to the area.

The planning and information sharing took place over a six-month period with a goal to help local healthcare providers plan for mass gatherings within The Center’s five county region of Lorain, Cuyahoga, Lake, Geauga, and Ashtabula. This included performing small exercises for communications such as the testing of radios and mass notification systems. Information sharing was also provided to other healthcare regions, including Cuyahoga County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) and Emergency Operations Center (EOC), the City of Cleveland EOC, the Ohio Department of Health and the National Weather Service Cleveland.

On April 8, thousands of visitors traveled to Northeast Ohio to witness the total eclipse. Thankfully, the day unfolded without the need for any of the planned scenarios. Christina Fozio, emergency preparedness program manager for The Center for Health Affairs, was at the Lorain County EMA Emergency Operations Center on April 8 to maintain situational awareness with regional stakeholders, coordinate information sharing with the Ohio Department of Health, and monitor a variety of platforms, including platforms capable of tracking hospital bed availability.

“We discussed countless scenarios that may prompt an influx of patients to area hospitals,” said Fozio. “The months of planning and preparation for April 8 helped prepare the region by working with healthcare planners from similar events, such as the 2017 eclipse.  Lessons learned from previous events helped lay the path for the coordination and collaboration to this specific situation.”

The Center for Health Affairs’ Emergency Preparedness program plays a key role in improving the level of emergency preparedness in Northeast Ohio by working with area hospitals and key stakeholders to enhance the region’s ability to respond to and recover from natural and man-made disasters. The program promotes healthcare preparedness with funds administered through the Ohio Department of Health provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR).