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J Bus Contin Emer Plan. 2012 Autumn-2013 Winter;6(2):151-63.

Disaster and exercise performance information collection tool: capturing observations in four minutes or less.

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EP+R International LLC, Lake Ridge, VA 22192, USA.


The objectives of the work described in this paper were to: (a) identify existing gaps in data collection, processing and dissemination across all types of emergencies; (b) build a tool that permits documentation, manipulation and propagation of relevant observations in emergency preparedness exercises or real-world incidents to inform critical decision makers in real time and to facilitate the elaboration of lessons learned, best practices and pioneering strategies for the management of future disasters; (c) validate the efficacy of the tool for collecting, processing and disseminating disaster-related information, through its integration in a series of exercises. The disaster and exercise performance information collection tool (DEPICT) was developed to address needs identified via the analysis of survey responses provided by representatives of military and civilian organisations with disaster response experience. Consensus discussions were held to identify criteria and operational parameters for the tool. As the development of DEPICT progressed, feedback and recommendations for improvements were provided to the developers, who incorporated the recommendations in successive iterations, resulting in increased refinements of the tool. DEPICT was subsequently tested for feasibility through operations-based exercises centred on catastrophic earthquakes in three diverse geographic locations of the USA. Feedback regarding DEPICT's functional performance during the exercises was used to inform further refinements to the program. The authors developed the DEPICT software on a PHP platform to accomplish two goals: (1) offer a core that supports user interaction and data management requirements (eg data capture, transmission and storage); (2) present a user-friendly interface with a shallow learning curve to facilitate a better user experience. DEPICT is a user-friendly, web-based application that is accessible through various mobile web-enabled devices. The application allows responders, emergency planners and exercise evaluators to capture written and photographic field observations, on average, in four minutes or less per observation. These observations may be further processed or formatted offsite by analysts, prior to their submission for final exercise performance evaluation. Ultimately, the data form the basis of after-action reports, which, in turn, underpin future decision making and improved disaster response practices.

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