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Pandemic Influenza Tabletop Exercises: A Primer for the Classroom and Beyond
1Virginia Community Healthcare Association
1Naval Postgraduate School
Citation Information: Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Volume 5, Issue 1, Pages –, ISSN (Online) 1547-7355, DOI: 10.2202/1547-7355.1453, August 2008
- Published Online:
Concerns of a pandemic outbreak of influenza have been at the forefront of the homeland security and emergency management communities for the past several years. Until an actual pandemic occurs, the question of whether responsible agencies and their operational preparations can adequately handle a pandemic that impacts every jurisdiction will remain unanswered. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has taken the lead to handle this threat at the federal level, which includes establishing operational plans and developing training. It also includes developing a template for tabletop exercises, Tabletop Exercise for Pandemic Influenza Preparedness in Local Public Health Agencies, which can serve as a model for every jurisdictional level. The exercise is invaluable for public health planning, but there remains room for improvement: its design neglects some of the broader implications of the planning and coordination required of the first response community.This paper is designed to fit most suitably within emergency management and homeland security curriculum as an educational tool to prepare students for the complex realities of an influenza pandemic and the experience of a tabletop exercise. Beyond the classroom, it brings into focus many pandemic issues that exceed the scope of the DHHS pandemic influenza tabletop, but are of no less importance to public health departments and every other stakeholder agency and organization. Specifically, it discusses the role of exercises in emergency management planning, provides an overview of the present pandemic influenza threat, outlines special planning considerations and assumptions relevant to this threat, and reviews the foundations of existing pandemic influenza planning and response materials. It will also ultimately offer an adapted version of Tabletop Exercises for Pandemic Influenza Preparedness in Local Public Health Agencies that addresses the problematic planning areas specifically for public safety and emergency management professionals and should facilitate pandemic-related problem solving for all public and private organizations in the absence of a precisely tailored industry-specific exercise.