Increasingly, public health departments are designing and engaging in complex operations-based full-scale exercises to test multiple public health preparedness response capabilities. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) supplies benchmark guidelines that provide a framework for both the design and the evaluation of drills and exercises; however, the HSEEP framework does not easily manage the development and evaluation of multiple, operations-based, parallel exercises combined into one complex large-scale event.
Using lessons learned from the planning of the Mississippi State Department of Health Emergency Support Function-8 involvement in National Level Exercise 2011, Dr. Lisa C. McCormick, assistant professor in the department of health care organization and policy at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, developed an expanded exercise planning model that is HSEEP compliant but accounts for increased exercise complexity and is more functional for public health. Co-investigators include department colleagues Dr. Lisle Hites, assistant professor; Dr. Andrew C. Rucks, professor; and Dr. Peter M. Ginter, professor; as well as Ms. Jessica F. Wakelee, program director II in the evaluation and assessment core.
The Expanded HSEEP (E-HSEEP) model was developed by changes in the HSEEP exercise planning process in areas that include the Exercise Plan, Controller/Evaluator Handbook, Evaluation Plan, and After Action Report and Improvement Plan. The E-HSEEP model was tested and refined during the planning and evaluation of Mississippi’s State-level Emergency Support Function-8 exercises in 2012 and 2013. As a result of using the E-HSEEP model, it was found that Mississippi State Department of Health was able to capture strengths, lessons learned, and areas for improvement, as well as to identify micro-level issues that may have been missed using the traditional HSEEP framework.
The South Central Preparedness & Emergency Response Learning Center—part of the South Central Public Health Partnership, which has the goal of preparing a public health workforce that is able “to perform the essential public health services and respond to natural disasters, infectious disease outbreaks, bioterrorism, and other public health emergencies,” on which the UAB researchers serve as faculty and staff—has created an Excel-based E-HSEEP tool that will allow practice partners to build a database to track corrective actions and to conduct many different types of analyses and comparisons. “Planning and Executing Complex Large-Scale Exercises” was published in the September-October Journal of Public Health Management & Practice.
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