Pilot workshops at the Palau Center for Emergency Health: a model for international collaborative operations training and planning

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The Emergency Public Health Planning Workshop demonstrated that national with different backgrounds, capabilities, knowledge bases, and concepts of operations can work together to develop complementary emergency public health plans. Results of the First Responder Emergency Medical Workshop demonstrated that, despite having similarly inconsistent backgrounds, emergency responders can develop complementary response protocols. Lectures presented in both workshops are now available in the public domain. They can be used to improve regional public health emergency capabilities whether the region considered is local, state, or international.

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Objective:Environmental emergencies and disasters are becoming more frequent in developing nations. Between 1992 and 1996, disasters affected an annual average of 4.5 million Oceania residents. Unfortunately, public health planners in the region and responders throughout the world have little evidence on which to base measures of emergency preparedness. Indicators of preparedness must be identified, implemented and evaluated before the effectiveness of emergency planning interventions can be measured accurately. The aim of this study was to perform an objective evaluation of emergency preparedness among five nations in Oceania.Methods:A standardized retrospective review of national-level public health and institutional-level hospital emergency operations plans from a convenience sample of five Pacific nations or territories was performed. In addition, in-country interviews, observation of operations and review of documentation were conducted. The rates of affirmative responses to 957 yes/no queries in the questionnaire were tabulated according to major emergency operational planning concepts and categories of emergency support functions.Results:The study revealed remarkably low levels of emergency planning and preparedness among health and medical sectors of five Pacific islands.Conclusion:These data suggest a very low level of host national capacity for development of preparedness. Further investigation is necessary to define this need throughout this region of Oceania. See Commentary, page 143.