Preparedness requires careful planning-distasteful as it may be-followed by exercises to test the plans, Gerberding went on to say. Last week the CDC conducted a major exercise that was very instructive, she said.
As a follow-up to those exercises, CDC will be having a 2 day exercise next week in Atlanta.
The 24-hour live exercise-not a tabletop simulation-involved about 1,000 people, with 150 people staffing the CDC operations center. The drill required officials to make decisions about whether to declare a public health emergency, how to explain the difference between an emergency and a pandemic, and whether to change the handling of sick airline passengers-which would have immense effects on the travel industry.
"As we struggled with the decisions we had to make, there was not a bone of complacency in anyone's body," she said. "We learned why it was so important, why it was hard. . . . It really made the situation real." The exercise was opened to the news media, in part so that reporters would understand the seriousness of the risk and not become complacent themselves, she added.
"We thought it was a tremendously successful exercise," noted Gerberding.
The agency is planning to follow up with another exercise involving both federal agencies and state and local public health, she said. Further, "In May we'll exercise an even broader group of people in Atlanta, on the premise that the pandemic has arrived in Atlanta and CDC is functioning with a 40% loss of its work force."
I have been invited as a media observer. From the WaPo, also Feb 2007:
The exercise included a mock news conference. CDC media officers questioned Gerberding while four real reporters (from The Washington Post, the New York Times, the Associated Press and the Canadian Press) watched.
This is the first time there'll be a blogger assigned as media... progress, of a sort, I suppose (see this diary).
it's not an exclusive (other media will be there). I don't know a lot about the exercise yet, but expect more info from me next week. I intend it to be a two way conversation, with observations about how things work at the local level (my personal experience).
I doubt I will be able to live blog (I don't like live blogging, I'd rather participate and write later), but there should be time to share experiences, if not during than after.
Who knows? Communication during a pandemic (a real one) may be best served by involving bloggers as well as traditional media. Chances are, as in the Fred Friendly Seminar last summer, bloggers may hear it first. But working with traditional media is a helpful exercise as well, as what we each bring to the table is complementary.