Online Program

Imperative inclusion of disaster mental health in preparedness exercises: Lessons learned

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Sarah J. Powell, MA, Public Health Department, Center for Preparedness, Education & Practice, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
Alice Hausman, PhD, MPH, Department of Public Health, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
William K. Flynn, MPH, The Department of Health Services Administration and Policy, Temple University College of Public Health, Philadelphia, PA
The exercise of Disaster Mental Health (DMH) skills, a vital element to all disaster response and recovery efforts, is noticeably absent from federal guidelines, documentation, and practice. Specifically, Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) guidance, designed for localities to effectively test local plans and participate in multi-jurisdictional exercises, contains limited inclusion of disaster mental health activity or interventions. Federal HSEEP guidelines are intended for increased interoperability, but leave out tools that would be appropriate to DMH practice. In order to address this gap, we partnered with Philadelphia's Department of Behavioral Health, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the four counties local to Philadelphia to implement and evaluate three (3) DMH functional exercises. Using HSEEP guidelines, we developed an evaluation tool that utilized qualitative and quantitative data to assess PFA skills practice, Incident Command, and Communication. This presentation describes the exercise model, which followed the HSEEP protocol for a consistent, comparable, and functional evaluation regardless of scale of exercise. Here we present the results of the evaluation as well as important lessons learned from the adaptation of exercise and evaluation tools: 1) HSEEP materials require modification and specialized development to support the inclusion of disaster mental health exercises, 2) evaluators need specialized training in order to generate reliable observations; and 3) practice of disaster mental health plans and skills prior to a disaster event is imperative for adequate responder preparation. Recommendations for tailoring federal HSEEP guidance for DMH exercises and other highlights of the After Action findings are presented.

Learning Areas:

Program planning
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe the process of adapting a disaster mental health exercise to Homeland Security (HSEEP) guidelines Identify three challenges of evaluating Disaster Mental Health interventions in an HSEEP exercise format. Differentiate the goals and objectives of typical first response exercises with those of Disaster Mental Health Discuss the research-driven imperative to include behavioral simulation and disaster mental health in all levels of emergency planning

Keyword(s): Disasters, Mental Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I wrote, organized and conducted these exercises, including all HSEEP materials, evaluation and analysis
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.