A Few Pertinent Questions:
1. When will the "bio-terror
drills" go live?
2. How will police, military and the American people know the difference between "real world" bio-terror and "drilled" bio-terror?
3. Will the video footage of bio-terror drills be used by the government or media for pandemic propaganda purposes at a later date?
Resounding Bio-Terror Drill Themes:
1. A bio-terror attack and
subsequent pandemic is not a matter of "if", but "when".
2. Synchronicity and coordination of ALL local, county, state and federal government emergency agencies is being repeatedly drilled by DHS and FEMA in congruence with COG (Continuity of Government) / Martial Law plans.
Source: Seattle Times
Abstract: The Department of Homeland Security today will begin an eight-day disaster-preparedness drill, testing in part how federal, state and local government agencies would respond to a large-scale terrorist attack in Seattle.
That's good for government preparedness, said Robert Harper, spokesman for the Washington Emergency Management Division.
But dozens of local activists say it's not so good. They believe the federal government has used such drills in the past to manipulate public policy, said Bob Dennis, a member of We Are Change Seattle, a local activism group.
This drill, one of the largest emergency simulations ever planned in the Northwest, will center on three fictional events in Washington and Oregon.
The first is a simulation of a terrorist attack on downtown Seattle today. The second is a release of toxic chemicals on May 5 at the Umatilla Chemical Depot in Oregon. And the third is an explosion of a chemical tanker truck on May 6 in Whatcom County.
Soldiers, officers and government agents will not be present in downtown Seattle, said Master Sgt. David Largent, spokesman for the Washington Military Department at Fort Murray.
Instead, roughly 100 "role players" and hundreds of government officers will meet at "an urban training area" at Leschi Town at Fort Lewis, where they will set up a simulated decontamination and triage center, he said.
Dennis, who is also a member of the national 9/11 Truth movement, said many people are concerned that the federal government will use these practice drills to stage an actual attack on U.S. soil. "Then they'll blame it on, say, Iran, and use it as an excuse to go to war," he said.
Linda Boyd, director of the Eastside Fellowship of Reconciliation, a peace activism group in Bellevue, said distrust of the Bush administration has given those theories legs.
A 2006 Zogby International poll found that 42 percent of Americans believe the 9/11 Commission, which was charged to investigate the events of the Sept. 11 attacks, "concealed or refused to investigate critical evidence" of what occurred that day.
Hundreds of bloggers have claimed that a terror-attack drill, like the one planned this week in Seattle, was also going on in New York City immediately before the Sept. 11 attacks, and in London immediately before the July 7 attacks.
While members of FEMA were in New York City on Sept. 10 and 11, 2001, the 9/11 Commission did not find evidence that FEMA had been involved in any way with the attacks, according to the 9/11 Commission Report. The report does not find any American officials responsible for the attacks.
Harper said the Emergency Management Division has heard from some people concerned that there is more to the drill than what's being publicized.
"We've had some calls from people asking about that stuff," he said. "But it's not accurate. There's an exercise going on. Is it part of a foreign policy? No. Is it going to offer an opportunity for terrorists to strike? No. It's a chance to train with federal-level agencies that would help us with a catastrophic event. That's all."
The U.S. Army, the Washington National Guard, the American Aerospace
Defense Command, the U.S. Northern Command, the Federal Emergency
Management Agency, the Washington Emergency Management Division, local
governments and fire, police and sheriff's departments will all
participate (Seattle Times, 2008).
Date: May 5, 2008
Source: Salem News
Abstract: The Portland VA Medical Center is participating in the National Level Exercise 2 – 08 (NLE2- 08) as the Federal Coordinating Center for the National Disaster Medical Center on Tuesday, May 6th.
The Portland exercise will be part of a multiple exercise event in various parts of the country that will not specifically affect the Portland area, but will impact the national level response.
NLE02-08 is an exercise involving numerous chemical terrorist attacks in the Seattle area that will cause the activation of the Catastrophic Incident Supplement of the National Response Framework.
The purpose of this Full-Scale Field Exercise is to assess the Portland Area National Disaster Medical System's (NDMS) Patient Reception Plan in support of the Ultimate Caduceus Exercise, the patient evacuation portion of NLE2 – 08.
The Portland Area NDMS Patient Reception Plan will be activated to receive patients at the Portland Air National Guard Base.
The Multnomah County EMS Mass Casualty Incident Plan is used as the mechanism to receive and triage casualties.
For this exercise the NDMS Tennesse-1 DMAT will be used to assist in patient reception operations. The OR-2 DMAT equipment cache will be used by the TN-1 team and OR-2 team members will assist in providing logistical support.
Area hospitals will activate their Surge Plans and report bed availability based on their maximum surge plan estimates.
Hospitals will receive or simulate the actual reception of patients based on the individual hospital exercise requirements (Salem News, 2008).Title: Hoffman Estates Seeks Volunteers For Bioterrorism Drill
Date: May 9, 2008
Source: Chicago Tribune
Abstract: Hoffman Estates officials are looking for 2,000 to 3,000 volunteers next week to participate in a public-health exercise in return for department store coupons and tickets to an indoor football game.
volunteers are needed for a large-scale drill, planned for Tuesday at
the Sears Centre arena, 5333 Prairie Stone Pkwy., to test how medicine
would be distributed to victims of bioterrorism or an epidemic, said
David Christensen, emergency management agency coordinator in Hoffman
Estates (Chicago Tribune, 2008).
Title: Big [Bio-Terror]
Public-Health Drill Has Small Turnout In Hoffman Estates
Date: May 14, 2008
Source: Chicago Tribune
Abstract: An elaborate public-health drill Tuesday that organizers had hoped would use thousands of volunteers to help test the Chicago area's response to a possible bioterrorism attack instead drew fewer than 350 people -- and one beleaguered Cook County Board president.
Todd Stroger, who has been criticized in recent months by some northwest suburban officials for pushing through a county sales-tax increase, made an appearance at the drill in the Sears Centre arena in Hoffman Estates, albeit 10 minutes after the training exercise ended.
"This visit was just really to be a part of the many things the county does," Stroger said.
The drill, coordinated by the county's Department of Public Health, was intended to test how quickly more than 300 emergency personnel from 25 communities in the north and northwest suburbs could distribute medicine in the event of a health threat.
For four hours, the arena was converted into a giant pharmacy and medical center, where volunteers learned to register patients, screen them for possible side effects from medication and distribute pills that would be needed to treat an epidemic or act of bioterrorism.
Organizers had hoped that 2,000 to 3,000 volunteers would participate in the drill.
Though the turnout was disappointing, Hoffman Estates officials said they were pleased to see Stroger paying a visit to the northwest suburbs.
The exercise, estimated to cost $80,000, was mandated and funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which has called for health departments nationwide to coordinate drills since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Emergency personnel also staffed a practice command center in Barrington, where they simulated the phone calls and coordination that would have been needed to get medicine to 16 other sites in the north and northwest suburbs. The drill was the largest combined exercise the county's health department has ever orchestrated, said Kitty Loewy, a department spokeswoman (Chicago Tribune, 2008).
Title: LCCC Hosts Bioterrorism Drill
Date: May 18, 2008
Source: Red Orbit
Abstract: Volunteers took “patient” information and directed participants through a one-hour mock-emergency response clinic Tuesday at Lewis and Clark Community College.
They dispensed M&M candies in place of medication that would be given out in a real emergency and directed participants to information stations where they could learn more about their “medication” and about the mock-emergency they faced — a bioterrorism attack involving anthrax.
LCCC’s Hatheway Hall was chosen as the site for the Madison County Health Department’s emergency response exercise because of its central location, according to LCCC President Dale Chapman in a press release. It has previously been used as a cooling center in times of community need.
The exercise, meant to test deployment of the Strategic National Stockpile, was held from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.
More than 200 volunteers comprised of Lewis and Clark faculty, staff and students; Madison County Medical Reserve Corps members; health department employees from Madison, Bond, Calhoun, Pike and Clinton counties and local citizens served as clinic workers while actors, mostly students, played the role of the patients.
Triage personnel directed the patients into the preventative clinic or, depending on their mock-conditions, sent them to the “hospital” instead. They also asked each patient questions involving whether they had any special needs or children under 100 pounds with them to determine which line to put them in once inside the dispensing area.
This way, those with special needs could get special attention and everyone else could move through the line quickly, said Amy Yeager, the health department’s public information officer for the drill.
Once inside the dispensing area, workers took care of patients’ paperwork and gave them their mock medications as well as fact sheets and other necessary information.
After leaving the dispensing area, patients had the choice to follow signs to areas where they could get more information or to simply go home.
Had this clinic been used in a real emergency, workers would be coming in to help in 12-hour shifts, Yeager said.
Yeager said this drill was the first of its kind held at LCCC. SIUE has previously been used as a test site as well.
The department tries to have these drills about once per year to test their emergency response capabilities for mass distribution of medications in a timely, organized manner. Each is different and deals with a different emergency, she said.
“It’s practice for our staff and volunteers trying to work kinks out of the process,” she said.
Each time, different aspects of the process are being tested for possible improvements. For example, a newly acquired supply trailer, sitting outside of the clinic, was being used for the first time Tuesday, she said. An incident command system and the timeliness of the process were tested as well.
According to the press release, in a real bioterrorist attack or large-scale crisis, medication would need to be dispensed to approximately 2.7 million people in the St. Louis region as quickly as possible.
Therefore, similar drills for responding to an anthrax emergency were being held Tuesday for St. Clair County and the St. Louis area in other locations, Yeager said.
At the end of the day, workers who were involved in the drill will come together back at the health department for a de-briefing to discuss how things went and what can be improved, Yeager said.
In addition, secret evaluators involved with the process will give their unbiased opinions about the clinic’s effectiveness, she said.
Yeager warned that a clinic in a real emergency may not be exactly the same as the one used in the drill.
“The basic plan’s the same,” she said. “But some of the details may change” (Red Orbit, 2008).
Title: HHS Includes Online Services In Pandemic
Date: May 19, 2008
Abstract: The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently held a tabletop exercise to assess how it could best work with the news media—including blogs and other online-only information sources—to get status updates and vital health information to the American people during an influenza pandemic.
The session was held on Mar 17 at HHS headquarters in Washington, DC. Representatives from online avian-flu information services such as Avian Flu Diary, FluTrackers, FluWiki, WebMD, and CIDRAP News participated in the exercise along with those from several national media organizations, including ABC News, National Public Radio, and Reuters.
The exercise was the second time HHS has reached out to blogs. In May 2007, the department featured posts from bloggers such as Michael Coston of Avian Flu Diary and Greg Dworkin, MD, of FluWiki in a 5-week pandemic preparedness blog series. HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt hosts his own blog on the HHS Web site. He is the first cabinet secretary to use the online forum, according to HHS.
Bloggers were also included in a 1-day leadership conference that HHS hosted to engage community leaders in talking about local preparedness efforts and seek input on how to tailor HHS's own resource materials.
"We recognize that during a pandemic information could be life-saving. As more and more people turn to the Internet for information and news, blogs have emerged as an important and influential communications tool," HHS said in its invitation to attend the tabletop exercise.
Federal officials at the table included HHS Secretary Leavitt and representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, and the Coast Guard.
Representatives from state health departments and healthcare facilities also took part in the exercise, because they will also be fielding questions from the media and online sources throughout an influenza pandemic, and especially at the beginning.
Details about the pandemic exercise were off the record, but the scenario featured intensified activity overseas that prompted the World Health Organization to raise its pandemic alert stage. The situation then progressed to one suspected H5N1 case in the United States, which led to dozens of cases in major cities on both coasts.
At several points during the exercise, moderator Forrest Sawyer, a former news anchor with ABC and NBC who now runs his own media production and strategy company, Freefall Productions, asked the news media and online outlets to predict what their headlines would be and what information they would need from HHS, CDC, and other agencies.
During the exercise the communications officials from HHS floated the idea of "embedding" some of their staff in media organizations to ease access to official information during a pandemic. The agency also said its media access policies now treat reputable blogs and other reputable online services the same as traditional media organizations.
Stephanie Marshall, director of pandemic communications at HHS, told CIDRAP News that because growing numbers of people are going to online sources for news and information, "It's important for the government to understand how best to work with bloggers and other online journalists to distribute information. The exercise and the insights offered by the participating bloggers will help us improve and refine our existing pandemic communications plan" (CIDRAP, 2008).
Title: CDC Says Pandemic Drills Hone
Date: May 25, 2008
Abstract: Recent pandemic influenza response exercises have helped the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) improve its tools for making policy decisions quickly, according to senior CDC officials.
Before a large-scale exercise conducted earlier this month, the agency set up a "planning cell" of leaders who were insulated from the need to respond immediately to events so they could think carefully about policy issues raised by the emergency, officials said. In the exercise, on Mar 11 and 12, the new group made a noticeable impact on the CDC's ability to make decisions, according to Dr. Richard Besser, director of the CDC's Coordinating Office for Terrorism Preparedness and Emergency Response.
"One thing I was struck by was that we did a much better job of reaching decisions quickly, and it's critical that in a crisis we do that," Besser said in a recent interview about the results of the exercise.
The latest exercise—the fourth in a series that began in January 2007—featured a simulated emerging US epidemic sparked by a traveler from Southeast Asia infected with a mutated H5N1 virus. The March exercise dealt with days 6, 7, and 8, during which cases climbed from 273 to well above 300, with a 10% fatality rate. The exercise had states seeking guidance on when to close schools and take other "community mitigation" steps, while the CDC shipped antiviral drugs to the states and decided to screen air travelers in an effort to slow the virus's spread to places like Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. (For a story on the exercise, see link below.)
tyranny of the urgent'
CDC spokesman Von Roebuck said the idea for the new planning group stemmed from previous pandemic exercises. In some of them the CDC designated a special team to assist staff members actively engaged in the response, which proved to be very helpful, he explained. "This idea helped spawn and make the planning group a more formal entity for pandemic response," he added.
Dr. Daniel Jernigan, deputy director of the CDC's Influenza Division, said the aim in setting up the planning cell was to free leaders from some of the immediate pressures of the situation so they could think more deliberately about policies.
"What we recognize is that in the midst of a large event, there's a tyranny of the urgent that overcomes the groups, where there's a constant need to respond and react," Jernigan said. "And we felt it was vitally important to have a group of people that were removed from the constant pressure of the urgent so they could have a thoughtful approach to the development of policy on the fly."
The "plans unit" consists of 12 to 15 planning experts and subject-matter experts, who can call on other specialists when needed, Jernigan said. They unit includes specialists in influenza, quarantine, healthcare quality, communications, logistics, and legal issues. Their assignment is to deal with issues that require a more thoughtful approach, such as steps that "are costly, require multiple partners for implementation, or could lead to a strategic change in direction," he said.
Jernigan said the approach "may not be a novel concept," but using it in responding to a large-scale infectious disease event is new for the CDC. "It will help to assure that we're not missing in our forecasting of potential problems but also are not forgetting to come up with all the options in the midst of the crisis," he said.
The CDC is training specialists in other areas so that the planning-cell approach can be used in responding to other kinds of emergencies, such as bioterrorist attacks, not just a flu pandemic, Jernigan added.
Dealing with Regional Differences
Besides demonstrating the value of the approach, the latest pandemic exercise yielded some lessons about information flow and about tracking of containment efforts, according to Besser and Jernigan.
Besser said the exercise marked the first time a state health department—Georgia's—participated with the CDC in a pandemic drill. A resulting observation was that "we have work to do regarding information flow," he said. "It's critical that we all have a common operating picture, that we're viewing the same set of information and the same facts. We made a lot of progress in terms of the operating picture at the CDC, but we need to work on systems for sharing information at the state and local level."
Besser said there were some technical glitches in data transferring and video conferences. In addition, "We need to revisit some of our thoughts about how we would be sharing information with states and locals."
The exercise also showed that the CDC needs to pay more attention to the fact that a flu pandemic will unfold in different ways and at varying rates in different parts of the country, according to Besser.
"What you see with a pandemic is that states aren't affected in a uniform fashion, and not all areas within a state are affected the same," he said. "We need to develop a system for tracking what kinds of containment strategies are being used in what parts of the country—who's using a case-by-case strategy, who's using the community mitigation strategies. We want to identify what is working and what is not, so that as new areas are affected, we can make evidence-based recommendations."
Jernigan said the agency is working on a way to characterize the different "intervals" or phases of a pandemic. The plan is to include that information in guidance for state and local health officials, in the hope that it will help them with decisions such as when to begin community mitigation steps.
The CDC plans to conduct another large-scale pandemic exercise in September to extend the scenario used in the previous four. "In the September exercise we're going to be shooting to have more states playing with us in real time," said Besser.
He said the agency intends to run
a pandemic exercise that will simulate a sizable share of CDC employees being
out sick with the flu, but it remains to be decided whether that challenge will
be included in the September event. "It's critical to decide what functions we won't be doing as an
agency and how critical functions are covered," he said (CIDRAP, 2008).
Title: County Stages Bioterrorism Drill
Date: June 8, 2008
Source: Port Orchard Independent
Abstract: The Kitsap County Department of Emergency Management held a training excercise this week which simulated an outbreak of smallpox.
The department schedules two training sessions a year to prepare for various emergencies. This week was the first time it addressed a terrorism scenario, according to Mann.
We do extremely well in the handling and managing of natural disasters, she said. Terrorism represents a different scenario, but requires the same skills and uses the same people. We've been drilling for years, and we all play nice together.
Manns department, with four core employees, is moving to an undisclosed location in September.
We dont advertise our location because of security and the fact we are not a publicly accessible service, Mann said.
The training exercises are all carefully planned and, unlike a school fire drill, no surprise to any of the participants.
We ask ourselves, can we manage this event? Mann said. How do we interface with the law? Do we have enough volunteers to handle an incident?
The next exercise is scheduled for March, and will test reactions to a terrorist-driven disease outbreak. Mann said the county will be prepared for any disaster that strikes before then.
We have been planning this for three years, she said. We know how to handle these situations.
Incidentally, Mann has decided to not seek damages from a Seattle radio station which aired an April Foo'ls joke having to do with Bremertons water supply which caused a mild panic.
I was pretty spun up about this for a while, she said. But I decided it was better to forgive and forget (Port Orchard Independent, 2008).
Title: San Francisco Holds Chemical Terror Drill
Date: August 16, 2008
Title: Police Take Part In Homeland Security
Date: November 6, 2008
Source: ABC News
Abstract: All of the Oakland Police Department's 1,200 employees are participating in an immunization and homeland security drill this week in preparation for a potential bio-terrorism attack, police spokesman Jeff Thomason said today.
"Since 2001, the threat of terrorism has been evident and we've been worried about bio-terrorism the last few years," Thomason said.
He said the purpose of the "no blue flu" exercise is to test the department's capacity to immunize its first responders during an outbreak such as pandemic flu.
Department employees have the opportunity to receive a flu vaccination as part of the simulation.
Participation in the exercise is mandatory for all of the department's staff, including civilian employees. The flu vaccination is voluntary.
Thomason said 900 employees have gone through the exercise so far and 400 of them have elected to get a flu vaccination.
The drill began Monday and will end at 6 p.m. today.
Joining Thomason at the drill site at Oakland police headquarters, Zerlyn Ladua, the public health emergency preparedness coordinator for the Alameda County Public Health Department, said the drill is part of her department's preparation for terrorist events.
Ladua said that in the event of a bio-terrorism attack, the Public Health Department's goal is to get medicine to all of the county's 1.5 million residents within 48 hours (ABC News, 2008).
Title: Feds Stage Airport Test Of Plan To Slow
Date: November 12, 2008
Abstract: Officials from several agencies recently converged on Miami's international airport to take part in a full-scale exercise of the federal government's risk-based strategy to slow the spread of a future pandemic influenza virus across US borders.
Christine Pearson, a spokeswoman for the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), attended the first day of the 2-day drill on Nov 5 and told CIDRAP News that, unlike previous tabletop discussions to test the risk-based border strategy (RBBS), the exercise at Miami included a real plane and actors who played the role of passengers in an airport setting.
"It provided a level of realism that we hadn't had in past exercises, which had mostly been facilitated discussions," she said.
The RBBS is a short-term strategy that the federal government will use in the initial states of a pandemic to delay the spread of the virus enough to afford officials a little extra time to educate the public on how to protect themselves from the disease, produce and distribute vaccine, and position medication and supplies, Pearson said. The strategy involves screening international air passengers to gauge if they are sick or have potentially been exposed to others who are sick with the pandemic virus.
The system would begin when it's clear that a pandemic influenza virus is spreading globally and would end as soon as the virus begins causing illnesses in the United States.
Many public health experts have supported keeping borders open in a pandemic setting, because they don't believe closure would block the spread of the virus and because keeping borders open would preserve the flow of crucial supplies and soften a pandemic's impact on national economies.
Pearson said last week's drill was a joint exercise that involved the HHS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection, the Department of Transportation (DOT), along with numerous state, local, and airline-industry partners.
The scenario involved a novel and lethal human influenza strain that emerged in Southeast Asia and spread quickly and efficiently among humans, she said. The playbook had the World Health Organization (WHO) identifying a human-to-human H5N1 variant that spread to areas of Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia. The WHO declared a severe (phase 6) pandemic, prompting the United States to raise its response stage to 3 and the secretaries of DHS, HHS, and DOT to enact nationwide RBBS activities.
She said Marty Cetron, director of the CDC's Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, was pleased with how the exercise went and said it exceeded his expectations, particularly how well the partners worked together.
It's likely that the RBBS in its current form will change, based on what officials learned during the exercise, Pearson said, adding "But by testing this now, we will help ensure that the plan we have in place will do what it's designed to do and will ultimately help us to protect the public's health during the next pandemic."
routinely conduct drills at quarantine stations, Pearson said, and though
additional activities are planned, no plans are in the works to do another
large-scale exercise. Officials are likely to conduct more tabletop discussions
that could include smaller drills to address certain parts of the RBBS plan (CIDRAP, 2008).