Alfredo Fernandez, Jr.

Project title: An Evaluation of a Tabletop Exercise Designed to Test Existing Organizational Bioterrorism Response Plans of First Responder and Supporting Agencies in the Tukwila and Seattle-King County areas of Washington State

Degree: MPH | Program: Environmental and Occupational Health (EOH) | Project type: Project
Completed in: 2006 | Faculty advisor: William E. Daniell


The overall goal of this project was to evaluate the bioterrorism response plans of local first responder and support agencies relative to the fictitious activation of the Bio Detection System (BDS) in the United States Postal Service (USPS) Seattle Processing and Distribution Center. A tabletop exercise was developed and used with this scenario and evaluated to determine its effects on exercise participants in regards to their attitudes, opinions and knowledge to the following specific aims:

Enhance participant understanding of their individual roles and responsibilities during a bioterrorism event; Enhance participant understanding and knowledge of other responder and support agency’s responsibilities and capabilities during a bioterrorism event; Increase participant knowledge and understanding of Unified Command structure during a bioterrorism event; Increase participant knowledge and understanding of plans and protocols involved in the evacuation, decontamination and of victims during a bioterrorism event; Increase participant knowledge and understanding of plans and protocols for medical screening of victims to receive prophylactic drugs during a bioterrorism event; To provide a realistic and effective tabletop exercise to be used as a public health learning and training tool by the participating agencies.

A tabletop exercise is a scenario driven evolution where representatives of the various first responder and support organizations would respond to information introduced over time. Existing plans, protocols and procedures could be notionally tested and evaluated relative to other participating agencies. The benefits of this experience could be an improved understanding of one’s roles and responsibilities. Participants could also gain greater knowledge of the capabilities and limitations of partner agencies. More importantly, the knowledge gleaned from this exercise could be used to enhance existing organizational plans and procedures.

Questionnaires were distributed to participants before and after the tabletop exercise. Analysis using Wilcoxon Signed Rank Test revealed that the tabletop exercise was associated with a statistically significant effect on whether current plans for interagency communication are adequate and on improving the understanding of roles and responsibilities of other first responder and support agencies during a bioterrorism event. Participants also reported significant gains in improving their knowledge of different areas related to bioterrorism events, response and planning.