It is essential that the GCDPH include all hazards preparedness training as part of its preparation procedures. The GCDPH should conduct and participate in any preparedness training where possible. Having plans in place is extremely important, but actually practicing the plans and ensuring that public health personnel and community volunteers are properly trained is crucial for success during an emergency.
Exercises are the most effective way to develop the skills that GCDPH staff will need during an actual emergency. Exercising preparedness plans provides the following benefits:
- Brings together different response agencies and allows individuals to develop personal relationships with one another.
- Provides a simultaneous and comprehensive test of emergency plans, staffing levels, personnel training, procedures, facilities, equipment and materials.
- Reveal deficiencies in preparedness plans (identifying deficiencies during exercises is preferable to encountering them during an actual emergency).
There are five basic categories of preparedness exercises:
- Orientation – familiarizes new or existing staff with an agency’s emergency preparedness plans and procedures.
- Drill – use repetition to instruct or test capabilities.
- Tabletop exercises – this type is discussion oriented. Different response organizations meet and work through an emergency situation in a round-table discussion.
- Functional exercise – is hands on and is used to test and evaluate the capabilities of the emergency response system.
- Full scale exercise – are interactive and involve agency personnel working at the location of the mock emergency and the Public Health Command Center (PHCC) and the Emergency Operations Center (EOC).
The GCDPH should ensure that it conducts exercises on a regular basis so that staff understands their responsibilities when responding to an all hazards event.