, Volume 35, Issue 5, pp 512-518,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 10 Feb 2010

Exercises in Emergency Preparedness for Health Professionals in Community Clinics

Abstract

Health professionals in community settings are generally unprepared for disasters. From 2006 to 2008 the California Statewide Area Health Education Center (AHEC) program conducted 90 table top exercises in community practice sites in 18 counties. The exercises arranged and facilitated by AHEC trained local coordinators and trainers were designed to assist health professionals in developing and applying their practice site emergency plans using simulated events about pandemic influenza or other emergencies. Of the 1,496 multidisciplinary health professionals and staff participating in the exercises, 1,176 (79%) completed learner evaluation forms with 92–98% of participants rating the training experiences as good to excellent. A few reported helpful effects when applying their training to a real time local disaster. Assessments of the status of clinic emergency plans using 15 criteria were conducted at three intervals: when the exercises were scheduled, immediately before the exercises, and for one-third of sites, three months after the exercise. All sites made improvements in their emergency plans with some or all of the plan criteria. Of the sites having follow up, most (N = 23) were community health centers that made statistically significant changes in two-thirds of the plan criteria (P = .001–.046). Following the exercises, after action reports were completed for 88 sites and noted strengths, weaknesses, and plans for improvements in their emergency plans Most sites (72–90%) showed improvements in how to activate their plans, the roles of their staff, and how to participate in a coordinated response. Challenges in scheduling exercises included time constraints and lack of resources among busy health professionals. Technical assistance and considerations of clinic schedules mitigated these issues. The multidisciplinary table top exercises proved to be an effective means to develop or improve clinic emergency plans and enhance the dialogue and coordination among health professionals before an emergency happens.