Public Health Service Commissioned Officers Use AHRQ Emergency Preparedness Resources in Training

February 2008

The Director of Training for the U.S. Public Health Service, Kimberly Elenberg, MS, RN, used AHRQ materials during a five-week field emergency preparedness training course in the summer of 2007. A total of 728 people participated in the training.

"We stressed communication and accountability," says Elenberg. "The AHRQ materials are very good tools. They help those on the ground in setting up work areas, directing the flow of patients, establishing procedures, and handling staffing," she continues.

Many who graduated from the course received copies of some AHRQ materials during the training; others will receive materials by mail in the future. Elenberg used the following AHRQ materials during the training:

  • Community-based Mass Prophylaxis: Planning Guide.
  • Reopening Shuttered Hospitals.
  • Reopening Shuttered Hospitals: Surge Tool Kit.

To develop the response team field training for officers in the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service, the Surgeon General's Office of Force Readiness and Deployment collaborated with many partners. The officers who were trained are assigned to Rapid Deployment Forces, Applied Public Health Teams, and Mental Health Teams, all of which are strategically placed in several regions across the U.S.

The training was conducted from July 15 to August 24, 2007, at the Army's Camp Bullis, near San Antonio, Texas. Those trained in tactical operations for response included Active Duty Commissioned Officers, members of the Medical Reserve Corps, and Inactive Reserve Corps Officers. Participants made up 15 response teams. Teams were formed after Hurricane Katrina, but this was the first time they had met in person.

Training covered Federal emergency response to earthquakes, hurricanes, and improvised explosive devices. It also provided an opportunity to address many pertinent issues in the report, "Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina: Lessons Learned," issued by the White House in the aftermath of that hurricane. In addition, training included information about the Federal response to Hurricane Rita. Participants also learned about the Pandemic All-Hazards Preparedness Act, a bill that amended the Public Health Service Act with respect to public health security and all-hazards preparedness and response.

Specific training curricula included basic disaster life support, response to mass casualty incidents, managing a Federal medical station, psychological first aid, system intervention, and evidence-based behavioral health issues. In addition, the Applied Public Health Teams trained in epidemiology and surveillance related to an incident, as well as how to use specialty equipment. They also interacted with State and local panelists to foster better understanding of command structures during emergencies and expectations among partners.

Overall results of the training were highly positive. According to Elenberg, organizers determined that "Response teams were transformed from virtual teams to functional deployment teams." Participants overwhelmingly reported that both they and their team members understood their responsibilities, the training adequately addressed aspects of accountability during an emergency deployment, and the training format facilitated effective team-building.

Impact Case Study Identifier: 
AHRQ Product(s): Research
Topics(s): Emergency Preparedness
Geographic Location: National
Implementer: Public Health Service Commissioned Corps
Date: 02/01/2008

Hupert N, Cuomo J, Callahan MA, Mushlin AI, Morse SS. Community-based mass prophylaxis: A planning guide for public health preparedness. AHRQ Publication No. 04-0044, August 2004. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Rockville, MD. Contract No. 290-00-0013.

Reopening Shuttered Hospitals to Expand Surge Capacity, February 2006. AHRQ Publication No. 06-0029. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.

Reopening Shuttered Hospitals to Expand Surge Capacity: Surge Tool Kit and Facility Checklist, February 2006. AHRQ Publication No. 06-0029-A. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.


Page last reviewed October 2014