SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- USS Makin Island (LHD 8) hosted a Shipboard Isolation and Quarantine (SIQ) Limited Objective Experiment (LOE) Aug. 17-19 in San Diego.
The purpose of the LOE was to validate tactics, techniques, and procedures necessary to create a shipboard isolation unit using resources found aboard ships, as well as producing procedures in transporting and treating potentially infected patients.
Sailors suspected of being infected with highly contagious diseases such as tuberculosis or virulent strains of influenza need to be isolated in order to prevent the illness from spreading to other crew members and potentially degrading the mission capability of the ship.
"In order to isolate some patients with highly contagious respiratory diseases the unit has to be able to create a negative air pressure environment; which means air is sucked inside the unit keeping the illness from spreading throughout the ship," said commander, Third Fleet Surgeon, Capt. Bruce Laverty.
To create a disinfected environment to treat patients, the unit uses a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) Filter attached to a small air trunk on its side to produce the necessary negative air pressure. The HEPA filter works by sucking in the infected air and then filtering it before releasing the air outside the isolation unit.
"Properly isolating contagious illnesses is the job of the entire crew, not just medical personnel," said Laverty. "For example, Sailors from Engineering Department can set a berthing's air ventilation system to flow directly outside the ship and help isolate an illness, and damage control gear can be used to assist in creating negative pressure."
Third Fleet, along with Joint Experimentation and Analysis Division, Joint Program Managers for Collective Protection, Test Evaluation Control Office and Battelle contractors formed a Joint Doctrine Working Group (JDWG) where they worked together in planning and executing the LOE.
"The data we collect will influence procedures on how we isolate and quarantine contagious diseases ship board in the future, and will assist in mitigating the spread of an illness," said Robin Bryom, Joint Experimentation and Analysis Division chief project manager.
Bryom coordinated the experiment which was funded by the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense.
The isolation unit, designed by Naval Surface Warfare Center's Dahlgren Division, is mounted to the ship's bulkhead with fasteners to create the isolation ward.
"The frame is designed to collapse, making the unit easier to store," said John Garmon, one of the unit's designers.
Sailors from different departments aboard Makin Island volunteered to assist in the experiment. They donned face masks, latex gloves and aprons before beginning a procedure in order to make the experiment as accurate as possible. They performed various tasks; ranging from transporting patients to and from the unit, delivering food and tools, to removing waste from the unit.
After every step, Sailors and the JDWG discussed the pros and cons of the procedures they were testing in order to improve their methods.
"As a junior Sailor I'm glad I get to voice my opinion and be a part of the decision making," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) Airman Kayla Schregardus.
"Once the experiment is finished, the Joint Doctrine Working Group will evaluate and determine what procedures will be used in the future," said Bryom.