HSEEP-based emergency exercise toolkit tailors tabletop exercises to the needs of hospitals and health facilities

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In Brief

The combined efforts of the Chicago Department of Public Health and the Chicago Health System Coalition for Preparedness and Response produced a toolkit to introduce Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) policy and guidance in a usable format for hospitals and health facilities. The step-by-step process in the toolkit is intended to help hospitals design, implement, and evaluate emergency exercises for health facilities following the HSEEP format.

Background

Heat waves can lead to power failures and outages, heat-related deaths, crop failures, psychological stress, buckling roads, and strained ambulance services and hospital facilities. Those at highest risk during heat waves are the elderly, poor, and uninsured.

In July 1995, an unprecedented heat wave overwhelmed Chicago, resulting in more than 600 heat-related deaths and a surge in medical and morgue services throughout the city. Power outages and equipment failure over multiple days affected numerous Chicago neighborhoods and health facilities, some of which required patient evacuation.

Although hospitals in the US are generally equipped with backup generators, their capacity to distribute power to an entire hospital campus varies. Some facilities tie all systems into emergency power. Other facilities link only critical patient systems into emergency power, requiring the evacuation of people from parts of the system that are not connected. The potential for spikes in patient admissions and ambulance requests and the fragility of the power system require hospitals to address their capacity for medical surge and options for evacuation.

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