Extreme weather events are increasing in frequency and intensity, such as hurricanes, flooding, severe storms, and extreme heat.
Extreme heat can become an emergency for public health responders as it impacts sensitive populations, such as the unhoused, the elderly, and children. In Tennessee, extreme heat was identified as an emerging threat in 2022 when heat warnings were issued in early June across the state. As a result, the focus of a recent project by the Tennessee Public Health Association—a NACCHO and CDC Climate and Health Demonstration site grantee—was to develop emergency planning tools to assist local public health agencies and corresponding local planning and response agencies such as emergency management and American Red Cross.
The Tennessee Public Health Association (TPHA) partnered with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) and the Hamilton County Health Department on the development and piloting of an extreme heat tabletop exercise for Tennessee, while also engaging four graduate students to assist with the work.
The tabletop exercise took place on June 29, 2023, making it the first virtual exercise facilitated in the state.
The project team developed a PowerPoint presentation and facilitator’s guide for the tabletop exercise using evidence-based materials and data. The virtual exercise event, focused on a Chattanooga-based scenario, was promoted by TPHA statewide. Twenty-nine people registered for the event including epidemiologists, emergency response coordinators, American Red Cross representatives, hospital representatives, and emergency management. The tabletop exercise was held via Zoom on June 29, 2023, facilitated by TPHA and UTC. Participants collaborated on how to respond to the extreme heat scenario through four modules using breakout rooms in Zoom. As a result of the exercise, Hamilton County Emergency Management called a follow-up planning meeting the following day for local agencies and organizations.
The project was a success in that it marked the launch of extreme heat planning in Chattanooga, TN. The tabletop exercise engaged several agencies and organizations to discuss their response plans to an extreme heat event and resulted in a follow-up planning meeting by Hamilton County Emergency Management. On August 7, 2023, Hamilton County Emergency Management released their Excessive Heat Response Plan. In addition, this project engaged public health students in applied practice and promoted the collaboration of TPHA with academia and local health departments to work toward being more prepared for a public health emergency.
This project is based on funding from the National Association of County and City Health Officials, supported by Cooperative Agreement Grant OT18-1802 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The contents do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by CDC/HHS, or the U.S. Government.
Contact Information for Tennessee Public Health Association
Executive Director, Tennessee Public Health Association