• Pam is one of scores of simulations, drills and exercises that take place every year at all levels of government and in the private sector with the intention of testing and preparing everyone from first responders to senior-level decision-makers for crises. Critics say real-life events often show the practices don't adequately prepare these critical players…. Hopmeier and others say many preparedness exercises are not nearly as valuable as advertised, or as they could be. Simply holding them is not sufficient; the exercises must be evaluated to ensure they are testing the system enough to expose vulnerabilities and problems that must then be repaired.

    "Exercises are not all created equal," says Michael Wermuth, director of homeland security programs at the nonprofit RAND Corp. "There are a lot of different kinds of exercises, a lot of different methodologies used to conduct exercises."

  • Since 2001, state and local health departments in the United States (US) have accelerated efforts to prepare for high-impact public health emergencies. One component of these activities has been the development and conduct of exercise programs to assess capabilities, train staff and build relationships. This paper summarizes lessons learned from tabletop exercises about public health emergency preparedness and about the process of developing, conducting, and evaluating them.

  • Legal preparedness is a critical component of comprehensive public health preparedness for public health emergencies. The scope of this study was to assess the usefulness of combining didactic sessions with a tabletop exercise as educational tools in legal preparedness, to assess the impact of the exercise on the participants’ level of confidence about the legal preparedness of a public health system, and to identify legal issue areas in need of further improvement.

    (tags: tabletop)

  • All phases of the disaster response must be addressed in a disaster plan. Functional job descriptions and responsibilities of all agencies and organizations involved should be delineated clearly. More importantly, these plans should be exercised and rehearsed. The ideal exercise includes participation by all parties involved. Since these exercises, by their very nature, disrupt normal operations and are costly in personnel and material utilization, disaster agencies frequently conduct a proxy exercise on the "tabletop." This is a simulation of an emergency situation for training and testing plans and procedures that does not involve movement of response resources. Tabletop exercises are good training tools because they allow people in leadership positions to work through major problems without the cost of running vehicles, using staff and volunteer time, or using supplies. They can quickly highlight areas of weakness where additional support may be needed.

  • Strategic negotiations in digital tabletop displays have not been well understood. There is little reported in the literature on how users strategize when group priorities and individual priorities conflict and need to be balanced for a successful collaboration. We conducted an observational study on three digital tabletop systems and a real-world setup to investigate similarities and differences in real-world and digital tabletop strategic collaborations. Our results show that in the real world, strategic negotiation involves three phases: identifying the right timing, using epistemic actions to consider a task plan and evaluating the value of the negotiation. We repeated the real-world experiments with different digital tabletops and found several differences in the way users initiate and perform strategic negotiations.

  • There is a dire need to have complementary form of disaster training which is cost effective, relatively easy to conduct, comprehensive, effective and acceptable. This will complement field drills training. A classroom-based training and simulation module was built by combining multiple tools: Powerpoint lectures, simulations utilising the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) schematic module into ‘floortop’ model and video show of previous disaster drill.

  • Tabletop exercises are often used for learning purposes in the area of crisis management, yet their potential for this is far from clear. The study examines the learning outcomes achieved by a group of persons taking part in tabletop exercises in which they assess the crisis management capabilities of the organisation to which they belong and suggest possible improvements. Interviews with the participants provide evidence of positive learning effects. Although the effects are in line with generally accepted normative principles of crisis management, the degree of understanding that the participants gain about it appears to vary considerably. The underlying reasons for this are discussed.

  • Effective Department of Defense (DoD) response to pandemic influenza requires robust and well-exercised plans at the installation level. This article describes proceedings and key findings from a half-day “train-the-trainer” pandemic influenza tabletop exercise for Tri-Service installation public health emergency officers (PHEOs) at the August 2008 Force Health Protection conference. Exercise participants were expected to facilitate the execution of a pandemic influenza exercise at their respective installations within 6 months of attendance. On a 6-month follow-up survey (N = 50), 68% indicated their installations had since created a new pandemic influenza plan or revised an existing one, whereas 44% indicated that their installation had since conducted a pandemic influenza exercise.

  • Training exercises are now frequently used in health disaster and emergency medicine to train first responders,1 including the use of tabletop exercises.2–4 Nevertheless, these kinds of drills are not well described in occupational and industrial safety and health literature. They represent an interesting alternative to simulated disaster plans, which require considerable human and technical resources disrupt a company's daily business. Our purpose was to develop a special tabletop exercise training program for health and safety professionals such as occupational physicians and hygienists.

  • HSPH-CPHP supplies the content expertise relevant to simulating a public health emergency; develops the exercise scenario, Master Scenario Events List (MSEL), and supporting documentation; creates the evaluation plan and instruments; and provides trained personnel to facilitate exercise play and evaluate collective performance.
    Since 2005, we have conducted 21 exercises and have direct access to 14 after-action reports (AARs) produced. For this study, we conducted a content analysis of the AARs written following 14 exercises conducted as part of the HSPH-CPHP exercise program, to identify recurrent themes related to the systems challenges faced by the responders during the simulated emergencies. This article describes the most common challenges identified during our exercises, and illustrates how exercises can act as an innovative way for academic partners to collaborate with public health practitioners to improve preparedness.

  • The threat of pandemic disaster has motivated many collaborative exercises for the purpose of preparation and evaluation. The nature of these exercises depends upon the status of pre-existing expectations for system behavior and the aims of the exercise stakeholders. The contents of this article argue that these exercises may be developed using the same approach as simulation modeling to advantage. Four levels of maturity are outlined as a guide to understanding reasonable expectations for such activity.