ments that approach by presenting the committee’s recommendations for an independent and systematic assessment of the response capabilities of the large metropolitan areas that have or will participate in the MMRS program.
Several important assumptions or principles underlie these recommendations:
Evaluation should be part of a continuous learning and continuous quality improvement program, not a one-time snapshot. This implies a continuing relationship between the communities and their evaluators that includes financial as well as technical and educational support.
“Preparedness” is a meaningless abstract concept without a specific threat; it should be seen as a process rather than a state.
Preparedness requires not only numerous specific capabilities, typically the responsibilities of independent offices, agencies, and institutions, but also seamless coordination of those capabilities into a coherent response. The former may be envisioned as the teeth of a comb, the latter as the base or backbone of the comb.
Information and the ability to acquire, process, and appropriately distribute it to essential sites and personnel are central to the effective management of critical incidents including terrorism in its many forms.
Evaluation is an exercise designed to guide distribution of local, state, and federal resources. Evaluations should be valued and understood as an opportunity for local communities to determine the areas in need of improvement and support rather than as a test of communities’ self-reliance.
A relatively small subset of the nearly 500 preparedness indicators identified in the Phase I report (Institute of Medicine, 2001) can be used to identify critical areas in need of improvement for a given community.
A set of 23 essential capabilities needed for an effective response to CBR terrorism was presented and used to guide the selection of a subset of preparedness indicators for use in a formal evaluation program. For each of those indicators, the committee then provided its opinion on what would constitute acceptable evidence of preparedness (preparedness criteria).
The chapter concludes with the committee’s recommendations on methods for gathering that evidence. Evaluations by OEP should be multilevel processes that include (1) periodic review of documents and records, (2) observation of community-initiated exercises and drills, and (3) an on-site assessment. The committee views the on-site assessment as constituting both interviews with individuals about specific capabilities and a scenario-driven group interaction focused on interagency and institutional cooperation and coordination.