Extending the Reach of Pediatric Emergency Preparedness: A Virtual Tabletop Exercise Targeting Children’s Needs
Objectives: Virtual tabletop exercises (VTTXs) simulate disaster scenarios to help participants improve their emergency-planning capacity. The objectives of our study were to (1) evaluate the effectiveness of a VTTX in improving preparedness capabilities specific to children’s needs among pediatricians and public health practitioners, (2) document follow-up actions, and (3) identify exercise strengths and weaknesses.
Methods: In February 2017, we conducted and evaluated a VTTX facilitated via videoconferencing among 26 pediatricians and public health practitioners from 4 states. Using a mixed-methods design, we assessed participants’ knowledge and confidence to fulfill targeted federal preparedness capabilities immediately before and after the exercise. We also evaluated the degree to which participants made progress on actions through surveys 1 month (n = 14) and 6 months (n = 14) after the exercise.
Results: Participants reported a greater ability to identify their state’s pediatric emergency preparedness strengths and weaknesses after the exercise (16 of 18) compared with before the exercise (10 of 18). We also observed increases in (1) knowledge of and confidence in performing most pediatric emergency preparedness capabilities and (2) most dimensions of interprofessional collaboration. From 1 month to 6 months after the exercise, participants (n = 14) self-reported making progress in increasing awareness for potential preparedness partners and in conducting similar pediatric exercises (from 4-7 for both).
Conclusions: Participants viewed the VTTX positively and indicated increased pediatric emergency preparedness knowledge and confidence. Addressing barriers to improving local pediatric emergency preparedness—particularly long term—is an important target for future tabletop exercises.