Lessons Learned from North Carolina Public Health Regional Surveillance Teams’ Regional Exercises
AbstractAll-hazards exercises bring together emergency response partners at the local, regional, state, and federal levels for the primary purposes of testing response plans, defining roles and responsibilities, assessing capabilities, and making necessary improvements prior to an actual incident. To better understand the benefits and challenges of conducting regional (ie, multicounty) exercises, a study was carried out by the North Carolina Preparedness and Emergency Response Research Center at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health. This article describes 5 all-hazards regional exercises conducted by Public Health Regional Surveillance Teams (PHRSTs) in North Carolina in 2009 and highlights 4 unique benefits that resulted from the exercises beyond meeting explicit objectives to test plans and identify areas for improvement: (1) building relationships among response partners, (2) promoting public health assets, (3) testing multiple communications systems, and (4) training exercise evaluators. Challenges of planning and conducting regional exercises also are addressed, followed by recommendations for maximizing the effectiveness of regional public health exercises.