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emergency preparedness training, exercises and drills, severe acute respiratory syndrome, workforce development



  1. Sarpy, Sue Ann PhD
  2. Warren, Christopher R. MS
  3. Kaplan, Seth MS
  4. Bradley, Jill MS
  5. Howe, Roger MD, MMM


In response to recent public health threats and disasters, greater emphasis has been placed on the use of exercises and drills to improve individual performance and enhance capacity of the public health workforce. However, despite the increased application of these exercises, rigorous research regarding their appropriate development and relative effectiveness in improving public health preparedness is limited. The present study attempted to fill this void by presenting a detailed account of a comprehensive and integrated approach to developing, implementing, and evaluating a tabletop exercise designed to enhance emergency preparedness and response of public health workers. Following a comprehensive training systems model, a tabletop exercise was developed to simulate worker recognition and response to a Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome event among public health workers in Arkansas. Forty-nine individuals participated in the tabletop exercise, including public health workers and their external partners. Results demonstrated the effectiveness of this tabletop exercise in increasing participants' competency-related knowledge and skills. The flexibility afforded by creating a standardized competency-based process can extend to other state and local health departments and provides evidence of the reciprocal relationship between research and practice needed to advance the areas of emergency preparedness training and workforce development initiatives in public health.