Influence of the CHEMM Tool on Planning, Preparedness, and Emergency Response to Hazardous Chemical Exposures: A Customized Strategic Communications Process Based on Mental Modeling
Daniel Kovacs, Sarah Thorne, and Gordon Butte
The National Library of Medicine maintains the world’s largest biomedical library from which the Specialized Information Services Division produces information on a range of topics, including disaster/emergency preparedness and response.  CHEMM is a software-supported decision tool, produced by the SIS that provides first responders, first receivers, and other potential users rapid access to comprehensive information needed to better make critical decisions when planning for, preparing to respond to, and responding to hazardous chemical exposure emergencies. The primary goal of CHEMM is to save lives through improved response to such emergencies. CHEMM is uniquely suited to addressing emergencies with the potential for mass casualties resulting from large-scale release of hazardous chemicals used in large quantities in industrial applications, or from release of the most highly toxic substances such as those that may be used in terrorist attacks. Such scenarios are extremely unusual and typical responders and receivers are likely to have limited training and little to no experience in responding to such incidents.
In 2010, the CHEMM Team asked Decision Partners to assist them in the development of CHEMM by employing a multiphase Mental Modeling approach to gain insight into: (a) how first responders, first receivers, and other potential users think through and make decisions in a chemical exposure-related mass casualty event and (b) the role CHEMM could play in supporting these activities.
The first step in the Mental Modeling approach was to work with the CHEMM Team to develop a clear, measureable opportunity statement. To guide its work, the Team developed the following Opportunity Statement:
The opportunity is to optimize effective decision making in a chemical hazards emergency by enhancing user interface with the CHEMM Tool. We will do this by using insight into how first responders, first receivers and other users think through and make decisions in a chemical exposure-related mass casualty event to design and validate the CHEMM Tool.
The multiphase Mental Modeling approach was then undertaken comprising the following steps:
- • A draft expert model was developed working with a small group of NLM experts and through a review of other emergency management resources currently available.
- • Detailed expert models were developed through a workshop with 27 expert stakeholders, including first responders, first receivers, and government and academic researchers. These detailed models served as the analytical framework for the mental models research.
- • Mental models interviews were conducted with 40 potential CHEMM stakeholders, including first responders, first receivers, and others, including emergency response trainer s and planners .
- • An Update and Strategy Development Workshop was held with key stakeholders to update them on the progress of the CHEMM research and to develop strategies for future CHEMM outreach and development.
- • A Stakeholder Outreach Plan was developed to continue and enhance stakeholder engagement for ongoing development of CHEMM.
The remainder of this chapter describes the research approach and presents the results of the research efforts. It concludes with a discussion of the value of this approach in Client Perspectives on Mental Models Research, Key Learnings, and Applying the Results.
-  This chapter is adapted from Decision Partners’ Final Report entitled “Influences of the CHEMMtool on Planning, Preparedness and Emergency Response to Hazardous Chemical Exposures”(February 2012) Prepared for NLM under Contract Number: HHSN276200900787P/0002. Theauthors would like to thank the NLM and the other members of the NLM Project Team includingFlorence Chang and Jennifer Pakiam for funding support and significant expert contribution to thiswork. The authors also with to thank our contributor, Pertti Hakkinen, Acting Head, SpecializedInformation Services, Office of Clinical Toxicology at NLM, for his assistance with this chapter.