BOSTON - The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will be hosting a joint federal-state exercise Wednesday, December 12 to strengthen contingency plans for an influenza pandemic. Operation PANEX ?07 is the first functional exercise of its type in this country designed to determine best practices for a coordinated multi-agency response to an outbreak.
The participants will involve key federal agencies including the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS), Health and Human Services (HHS), and Defense (DOD) in partnership with their counterparts in the six New England states. The operation is part of an ongoing development opportunity to exercise established procedures and coordinated plans of action for disseminating public information and resource allocation.
FEMA Region I Administrator Art Cleaves underscored the importance this exercise plays in preparing for an event of this nature.
"It is imperative that we, the responsible federal (and state) agencies, consistently come together to engage in coordinated response planning," said Cleaves. "Obviously, in the event of an influenza pandemic, which is the focus of this exercise, it will require a sophisticated and aggressive course of action."
A pandemic is a global disease outbreak. A flu pandemic occurs when a new influenza virus emerges for which people have little or no immunity, and for which there is no vaccine. The disease spreads easily person-to-person, and can sweep across the world in a very short time. The ?Spanish Flu? Pandemic of 1918-1919 killed between 30 and 50 million globally; an estimated 675,000 Americans were among the dead.
State Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs) will be activated and participating federal agencies will work with state and local health officials and emergency managers to respond to the simulated event. In the event of an actual influenza pandemic, DHS has primary responsibility for coordinating the overall federal response. FEMA's role would be to coordinate the identification, mobilization and deployment of federal resources to support the life-saving and life-sustaining needs of the states and their populations.
"The goal is to assess our strengths and weaknesses and identify areas that need improvement," said Cleaves. "Exercises like this are a vital component to maintaining a proactive approach to emergency management."