AHRQ Tool Helps Hospitals Evaluate Disaster Response Plans

Hospitals can identify the strengths and weaknesses in their disaster response plans using a new tool from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Beginning in September, hospitals participating in the HHS-administered Hospital Preparedness Program must provide executive summaries of the results of disaster drills they conduct, and the AHRQ "Tool for Evaluating Core Elements of Hospital Disaster Drills" helps them meet the requirement.

"This tool is a critical first step in helping hospitals evaluate their disaster plans to find out what works and what doesn't," said AHRQ Director Dr. Carolyn M. Clancy. "That knowledge can help hospitals make important changes to their response plans now, before a disaster strikes."

The tool is a series of evidence-based modules that provide standardized checklists to document observations during a disaster drill. Using the observations, hospitals can identify areas for improvement, make appropriate changes, and set benchmarks to track the changes over time. The modules assess the adequacy of response by different functional "zones" set up within a hospital during a disaster: command center, decontamination, triage, and treatment. A pre-drill module is included, and a debrief module obtains feedback from all participants, including observations that occur across multiple functional zones.

The new tool is an abridged version of a more comprehensive evidence report developed by AHRQ's Johns Hopkins University Evidence-based Practice Center in Baltimore; this new version singles out only the most critical elements that all hospitals should evaluate during disaster drills. It is available at www.ahrq.gov/prep/drillelements. Single, free copies can be ordered by sending an e-mail to ahrqpubs@ahrq.hhs.gov or by calling 800-358-9295.

For more information about the Hospital Preparedness Program, visit www.hhs.gov/aspr/opeo/hpp.

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