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NA TIG Week: Lisle Hites on Scenario Based Needs Assessment to Assess Community Needs for Daycare Center Emergencies

Welcome to Needs Assessment TIG week on AEA 365! I’m Lisle Hites, Chair of the Needs Assessment TIG, Associate Professor in Health Care Organization and Policy and Director of the Evaluation and Assessment Unit (EAU) at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Public Health. We hope you enjoy this week’s TIG contributions and look forward to seeing you at our sessions in Atlanta. Today’s posting is about the use of a Scenario Based Needs Assessment to Assess Community Needs.

In over 15 years of working with agencies and communities to assess needs, I’ve learned there’s really no one technique that suits every situation. To illustrate this point I’m sharing a recent, somewhat unusual, community-based needs assessment we conducted that was very specifically focused on the needs of daycare centers to prepare for a potential “active shooter”. While this unfortunate scenario has been fairly well assessed for public schools and other agencies (and considerable resources have been applied to follow-up on identified needs), little attention has been payed to this highly vulnerable daycare group.

We drew our methods from the disaster and emergency preparedness field. Both Federal Emergency Management Agency and Homeland Security have developed evaluation protocols (Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program) to help prepare and test plans to assess needs and prepare for disaster events. With our county’s Children’s Policy Council and local law enforcement we developed a scenario that would initiate conversations and encourage representatives of daycare centers and law enforcement agencies to identify, discuss, and capture needs. By planting evaluators within each discussion group, we captured identified needs, found solutions in some cases, developed plans for finding these, and gathered lessons learned. Altogether, we acquired a reasonably comprehensive set of immediate needs for this non-homogenous group of small daycare businesses. As a result of this scenario based needs assessment and the new connections among daycare center teams and law enforcement officers, daycare centers have a better idea of what they need to do to prepare for an active shooter event and now many have relationships with local law enforcement to begin this preparation.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Needs Assessments can be conducted in a variety of ways using existing data in new and innovative ways.
  2. During the conduct of a Needs Assessment, nothing precludes you from disseminating findings (i.e. lessons learned) and even solutions to needs at the same time.
  3. Sometimes Needs Assessments are an end as well as a means, reducing the needs they seek to assess.

Rad Resource: US Department of Homeland Security (2013). Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) at https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/20130726-1914-25045-8890/hseep_apr13_.pdf

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Needs Assessment (NA) TIG Week with our colleagues in the Needs Assessment Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our NA TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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