Background: Functional exercises represent an important link between disaster planning and disaster response. Although these exercises are widely performed, no standardized method exists for their evaluation.
Study objectives: To describe a simple and objective method to assess medical performance during functional exercise events.
Methods: An evaluation tool comprising three data fields (triage, clinical maneuvers, and radio usage), accompanied by direct anecdotal observational methods, was used to evaluate a large functional mass casualty incident exercise.
Results: Seventeen medical responders managed 112 victims of a simulated building explosion. Although 81% of the patients were assigned the appropriate triage codes, evacuation from the site did not follow in priority. Required maneuvers were performed correctly in 85.2% of airway maneuvers and 78.7% of breathing maneuvers, however, significant under-treatment occurred, possibly due to equipment shortages. Extensive use of radio communication was documented. In evaluating this tool, the structured markers were informative, but further information provided by direct observation was invaluable.
Conclusion: A three-part tool (triage, medical maneuvers, and radio usage) can provide a method to evaluate functional mass casualty incident exercises, and is easily implemented. For the best results, it should be used in conjunction with direct observation. The evaluation tool has great potential as a reproducible and internationally recognized tool for evaluating disaster management exercises.
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