|Participating in these exercises like this do not make us ready, but they certainly help the participants focus on issues. There's nothing like having to explain bad news to focus the mind. ;-P
I had the opportunity to participate in a 2 day tabletop workshop last week hosted by the CT Department of Public Health. The major topic was communications issues related to pandemic flu. The participants were public health directors and staff at the local (town) level; there were approximately 75 participants in all.
The scenario, a 20% CFR panflu that arrived via airport, was borrowed from our Australian friends in the form of a series of videos that showed worsening conditions over a few weeks span (day 7 and day 14). Participants had the chance to practice giving a press conference at days 7 and 14 (deteriorating conditions), with the goals of telling the truth, and not being overly optimistic.
The funds for this came from HHS and CDC. Training grants for exercises like this are imperative to get the message out beyond web sites and PSAs.
I was primarily wearing my hospital hat, but did have the chance to present to the entire group a short discussion of Flu Wiki, blogs and Mike Leavitt's video comments, which I told the group had the result of validating both blogs and two-way communication as well as increased transparency. It's one thing for me to say it, and quite another to have the HHS secretary say the same thing.
The impact, as always, remains to be seen. But for those who say the authorities always game a 1968-style pandemic, not so. Not in Connecticut.