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California Statewide Medical & Health Exercise

Participation FAQs ​

​Is participation mandatory?

​No, participation is not mandatory unless it is specifically stated in your annual grant requirements. However, if you are required to conduct exercises annually, this program can serve as a unique opportunity to meet those requirements.

​What agencies typically participate?

​The most common participants in this exercise are local public health departments and hospitals. However, jurisdictions are increasingly involving their EMS agencies, emergency management departments, police departments, fire departments, and other health care providers (especially members of local health care coalitions) including community clinics, long term care facilities, surgical centers, etc. Anyone can participate.

​How do I encourage other agencies in my area to participate?

​If other agencies in your area are required to conduct exercises annually, this program can serve as a unique opportunity for them to not only meet those requirements, but also to train with community response partners at the same time. If they are not required to participate, the exercise can still serve as valuable training for their agency staff on how to work with community partners in various scenarios. Sometimes, altering the scenario to incorporate other agencies’ participation can also help encourage them to participate. For example, if you would like the local police department to participate, use a scenario that would realistically include a significant police component, such as security and/or evacuation. If you would like Animal Care and Control to participate, ensure the scenario includes components of animal emergency response, etc.

​Do I have to do my exercise on the day of the SWMHE in November, or can I change the date?

​All participants can conduct their exercises on any day they choose. The advantage of participating on the day of the SWMHE in November is that the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the Emergency Medical Services Authority (EMSA) will activate their Medical and Health Coordination Center (MHCC) and participate as well, giving locals an opportunity to submit resource requests, situation reports, etc. However, if you need to change the date, advise your local community partners and jurisdiction of why you would prefer another date. The jurisdiction may be able to work with you and ensure that your community is participating on the same day. Depending on the size of your exercise, you may also want to alert CDPH that you are planning to conduct the exercise on another day, and they may be able to support your resource requests and situation reports during that time.

​Do I have to do both a tabletop and functional exercise to participate?

​No. Every element of the SWMHE Program is optional.

​How do I evaluate/document my exercise?

​There is information in the Exercise Evaluation Guide (EEG) templates on exercise evaluation, available on the "Post-Exercise" page of the Exercise Template section. Overall, assigning certain staff to be exercise evaluators will help ensure progress towards exercise objectives is adequately recorded for future use and reference. Participant Feedback Forms, evaluator notes, Exercise Evaluation Guides, and notes from the post-exercise Hot Wash and/or debrief with exercise staff can be combined and compiled into an After Action Report (AAR). There is an AAR template on the website available on the "Post-Exercise" page of the Exercise Template section. The AAR will help to summarize the strengths, areas for improvement, and next steps based on the exercise.

If you want to learn more about exercise evaluation, you can go to the FEMA.gov website, and click on the “HSEEP” tab, to view the HSEEP manual. Chapter 5 of that manual addresses the EEGs and how to develop them. There are also many additional sections within HSEEP on exercise evaluation to help guide you.

In terms of documenting an exercise, the Exercise Director, Senior Controller, or Lead Evaluator should collect all completed forms and documents after the exercise to compile as part of the AAR. These forms could include Incident Command System (ICS) forms, resource requests, situation reports, incident action plans, sign-in sheets, timesheets, and more. Photos and video footage of the exercise can be another helpful way to document the exercise and may be valuable tools for use in future trainings.

​Can I use the templates provided on the website directly, or do I have to wait for my county,  jurisdictions, or facility's templates to be released?

​It does not matter if your local jurisdiction is designing their own templates for the exercise in your area, you are still free to use the website templates if they are useful to you, and customize them specifically for your needs.. You should collaborate with your local jurisdiction to make sure you are able to participate meaningfully with them, but you are still welcome to use these templates if they work for you. Your jurisdiction may be developing templates that are customized to your local area, so you will want to inquire whether or not they recommend using their customized templates instead.

​I have a new piece of equipment I would like to test, can I use it within this exercise?

​Yes, you can always add to the exercise to make it work for you. Examine the equipment, look at your Master Scenario Events List, and include an inject that causes your staff to use that piece of equipment. For example, if they need training on a new generator, make sure there is an inject or event somewhere in the exercise that would require them to use the new generator. You may want to discuss how to use it during your tabletop exercise as well, or any pre-exercise training.

​Where can I find information about CDPH or Cal OES' planned activities for the exercise in November?

​You can submit questions on each year’s exercise by completing a contact form or sending an email directly to CAStatewideExercise@cdph.ca.gov

​What California Health Alert Network (CAHAN) alerts can I expect during the exercise?​CAHAN refers to the California Health Alert Network; California’s web-based information and communications system available on a 24/7/365 basis for the distribution of health alerts, dissemination of prevention guidelines, coordination of disease investigation efforts, preparedness planning, or other initiatives. CAHAN alerts are often used during the SWMHE program to test communications. More information can be found on our CAHAN page.


Each year may vary, but typically CDPH and EMSA’s Medical and Health Coordination Center (MHCC) will send out at least two CAHAN alerts – one to announce the start of the exercise at the MHCC, and one to announce the end of the exercise at the MHCC. If your jurisdiction is participating in other elements of play with the MHCC (such as joint conference calls) your jurisdiction may receive more.

Do I need to submit my After Action Report (AAR) from this exercise to CDPH and EMSA?​No.
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