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Self-reported training needs of emergency responders in disasters requiring military interface

Marian Levy, DrPH, RD, Robert W. Koch, DNSc, RN, Marla B. Royne, PhD


Objective: The purpose of this study is to identify perceived training needs of emergency responders to understand their needs to interface effectively with military operations for emergency response in the event of a disaster.

Design: A Web-based survey with civilian medical practitioners and public health professionals was conducted to identify their perceptions of training needs related to civilian-military interface in disaster response.

Setting: Lists of potential survey participants were obtained from local health departments and LISTSERVS in the two regions of interest: the South and the Midwest.

Participants: Participants (n = 673) included health practitioners (medical, emergency care, and public health personnel) from hospitals, public service, and other nonprofit and governmental workers.

Main outcome measure(s): Outcomes include perceived training needs, barriers to training, and preferred training formats and modalities.

Results: Data indicate a perceived knowledge gap of civilian healthcare providers to interface effectively with military healthcare providers. Nearly three-fourths of respondents did not feel well-trained to work with the military during a disaster response or were unsure if they were well trained. Key areas for training include communication, chain of command during a disaster, and logistics of working with military personnel. Barriers to training include expense; ineffective, boring formats; and excessive time requirements. Most respondents favor interactive exercises rather than didactic training.

Conclusions: Poor communication and lack of familiarity with military operations create barriers to effective coordinated response between military units and civilian responders in federal disaster response. Identifying gaps and training needs for these responders have far-reaching implications in public health’s ability to coordinate medical response as part of Emergency Support Function-8.


emergency response, disaster planning, aeromedical evacuation

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