2.2. Evaluating and updating the plan

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Even if all risks have been taken into account in developing a plan, a plan may not operational until it has been tested. The plan should be evaluated and updated periodically through simulations.

Simulation exercise is a useful tool to familiarize personnel with the contents of the plan and with the roles and responsibilities of the health team. Through a fictitious scenario, the team’s performance on assigned roles can be observed and gaps identified in the operationalizing the plan.

Simulations are also useful in training, and can be used at different levels of teaching. They put the usefulness and practicality of a disaster response plan to the test.

One of the advantages of these exercises is the participation in the disaster scenario of all the personnel and institutions involved in the response plan. In many countries, simulation exercises are an integral part of mechanisms for accrediting institutions (hospitals, for example).

Larger-scale simulations are multidisciplinary and intersectoral, with participation by national disaster management agencies, civil defense, police, fire departments, specialized search and rescue teams, health teams, and others.

The value of simulation is to observe the integration, consistency, and performance of the different institutions and participating personnel. It also analyzes all the variables involved in response, including roles and timeframes. These observations assist in making the necessary improvements to the emergency plan. Simulations in the health sector, and in hospitals in particular, should be conducted at least every six months.