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Here’s how to evaluate HSEEP consistent courses and exercises this year

Men in orange suits practice washing each other after a Hazmat contamination.

If you see a course or exercise for your health department, healthcare facility, or county this year that says it’s “HSEEP compliant” or “Complies with FEMA’s current version of HSEEP, you’ll know they’re making it up. There’s no such thing as “HSEEP compliance.” 

Broadly, the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) is a set of guiding principles for exercise program management and exercise evaluation. Instead, look for emergency management exercises that say they’re “consistent with HSEEP” or “This is an HSEEP consistent exercise program.” Anything else is just marketing fluff designed to claim something that doesn’t exist, isn’t recognized, and is slightly misleading.

VPC’s Exercise program management guiding principles

Vantage Point has helped conduct thousands of hours of emergency management drills and support practical skill development for entire teams based on their region, capability, risks, and budgets. 

These guiding principles make for a better exercise and evaluation program. An HSEEP consistent exercise program follows the same principles. You should look for these elements or ask the trainer how they developed these principles into their exercise:

  • Senior leadership and all levels of management and staff are involved in all aspects of the exercise, from tabletops to full-scale active threat or disaster drills.
  • The exercise objectives are informed by risk and capability assessments, so teams in California are training for earthquakes more than tornadoes and a team in Indiana trains for tornadoes more often than an earthquake.
  • The exercise is driven by real objectives and a team’s capability. This ensures, for instance, that local hospitals identify gaps with their ability to deliver core capabilities in conjunction with a district Healthcare Coalition, other providers, or stakeholders.
  • An exercise program should be designed to be progressively more challenging. When we evaluate exercises we’re looking to ensure the participants are being challenged with increasingly challenging issues. Like a fire at a local school that brings significant media coverage and community panic, testing not only the first responders, rescue crews, and healthcare staff, but also the communications and leadership teams.
  • A whole community effort is required so the exercise programs are well-developed. Prior to COVID-19, exercises that tested a healthcare facility’s patient loads while also bringing in local private nursing homes resulted in significant improvement planning. This could also test federal agencies and national capacity to deliver supplies.
  • Everything shares a common methodology before, during, and after an exercise. HSEEP methodology includes ways for all agencies, jurisdictions, and partners to share in the exercise planning cycle, the deployment, conduct, evaluation, and improvement through after action reports.

All of these HSEEP exercise principles have been incorporated into all of our tabletop exercises, drills, and improvement planning processes. If you’re considering a third party or internal exercise that doesn’t follow these HSEEP principles, ask them to prove they’re following these evidence-based best practices.

Security exercise and evaluation programs for emergency management

Get Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation-consistent exercise design focused on your operations-based objectives, target audience, capabilities, and with nationally recognized instructors and trainers. 

Technical assistance planning

VPC works directly with hospital and healthcare facilities, local governments and organizations around the United States. We’ve helped regional teams with national preparedness goal targets, improvement planning, local emergency management agencies with flood planning and preparation, and health departments with on-site staffing and support.

Tabletop exercises that push teams to consider new issues

The HSEEP methodology support efforts to refine practical skill development, but also push teams to consider new challenges based on real risk assessments. If your team feels like the same exercises testing limited bed space due to a pandemic isn’t novel or challenging anymore, our exercise planning team can design new ones, like:

Instructor Dwight Frost carries a mock blue rifle during a healthcare facility training exercise for active threats.
  • An active threat exercise inside an operational healthcare facility. This includes uniformed and plain-clothes officers responding in real-time with your security team, nurses, and other staff to identify, target, and neutralize a mock threat.
  • Localized fires that put mental health at the forefront. We’ve helped small rural communities test their core capabilities of responding to a fire, but put pressure on the responders by involving mock children at a local school. 

Systematic after-action reports and exercise evaluation. An on-site exercise evaluator is critical to HSEEP consistent exercises. The evaluation program identifies what went well, what didn’t, and what specific actions need to happen in order to improve later. 

The evaluation and improvement planning stage is often the most overlooked part of exercise development because the “hard part” is done. But the real challenges involve securing the funding, resources, equipment, and support of the whole community to ensure when a real emergency strikes the teams are prepared.

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