Disaster Response Preparedness and Training: A Capabilities Assessment of Asia Pacific Partners

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Mary Catherine Goetter, PhD
En Route Care Research Division, U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, 711th Human Performance Wing, Air Force Research Laboratory, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH, USA
Susan F. Dukes, PhD
Daniel K. Inouye Graduate School of Nursing, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, MD, USA


The purpose of this study is to address a knowledge gap in understanding how military personnel involved in casualty transport would be able to function with their military and civilian counterparts in the event of a disaster involving multinational response. United States Air Force (USAF) personnel have accrued robust experience in patient evacuation employing en route care (ERC) systems and critical care air transport teams (CCATT) that were established, designed, and studied in wartime. In the event of a multinational disaster, this resource will likely be tapped; however, ERC and CCATT have not focused on scenarios outside of wartime. USAF personnel will need to work with host and volunteer nations to evacuate casualties, yet little is known about how military personnel of other nations train for disaster response. The need to seamlessly integrate with these military and civilian counterparts is a given, but there is a lack of knowledge and understanding on how that would operationalize.

Disaster response preparedness is a critical issue for military and healthcare leaders. Major disasters have captured world attention: earthquake, tsunami, and resultant nuclear event [Japan 2012], Typhoon Hagupit [Philippines 2014]), and most recently the earthquake in Nepal [2015]. Disasters on this scale require more than one nation’s resources and response. The Asia Pacific Military Health Exchange (APMHE) is an annual military medicine event that combines the features of three previously separate medical, nursing, and leadership information exchanges into a single event. APHME was developed to foster information and knowledge sharing between U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and non-DoD entities to further shared aims. Disaster preparedness and response is a key commonality between U.S. and Asian military members, as well as civilians and non-governmental organizations (NGO) providing response and relief. Despite language or cultural differences, the need to rescue and evacuate casualties is a shared priority in disaster preparedness and response. This study will add knowledge to our understanding of how other nations train for disaster response preparedness, as well as assess disaster response preparedness training capabilities.


Program evaluation is a method that informs decision-making for a specific program, in this case, disaster response preparedness training and capabilities of member nations of APMHE. This method of inquiry and assessment aims to meet the evaluation needs of the various stakeholders. The capabilities assessment was a basic inquiry using survey method to gather demographic and factual information to determine how our military counterparts train for disaster response. The ultimate aim was to assess capabilities in the current system and inform future decisions related to the ability to work together with other nations to transport casualties in nontraditional ERC platforms.

A basic survey questionnaire using Survey Monkey® was distributed to all APHME participants (members of medical, nursing, medical service corps) who actually attended the 2016 meeting, as well as those who were not selected to attend, but expressed interest and visited the APMHE webpage. Attendance to APMHE is limited due to fiscal and logistical constraints; many countries were limited in the number of attendees they could send, but military unit colleagues of the attendees would still have valuable input to be solicited. A link to the survey questionnaire was posted on the APMHE website and Facebook page, as well as emailed to the attendees on the distribution list of the meeting. Participants were asked to fill out a questionnaire gathering simple demographic information and facts about disaster response preparedness and training.


Data collection is in progress and is expected to be completed by mid-2017. Descriptive statistics will be used to illustrate the sample and trends. Chi square analysis will be performed for sub-group analysis as appropriate. Results will be disseminated at future meetings of the APMHE.


This program evaluation of disaster response preparedness training and capabilities assessment will increase knowledge and understanding of this critical issue among military and civilian colleagues in the Asia Pacific region. Knowing the status quo of disaster response preparedness training will enable USAF leaders to narrow the knowledge gap of understanding of how evacuation and casualty movement could occur in a real world disaster in the Asia Pacific region. Knowing how our counterparts train, identifying common areas of disaster response training needs, and formulating concrete plans to close gaps will build international collaboration and improve the likelihood of saving lives. The researchers plan to take the lessons learned from this study and further expand collaborations with African and European partners.