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Modeling and Simulation Uses and Limitations

Various types of planning and response tools are available to assist planners and decision makers during biological incident response and recovery. Some models and simulations are easy to use, accessible to everyone, and designed for use at the local level. Other resources are more sophisticated, require specialized data sources, SMEs to access or interpret, and are not readily available at the local or regional level. These capabilities are accessed through reach back to federal agencies or SMEs.

In all cases, planners must understand the data requirements and specific purposes for which the models were designed and how these limit the ability to use the data outputs. Atmospheric models, for example, cannot accurately predict cross-contamination or the spread of biological agents outside the identified geographic areas of concern. In addition, such models cannot accurately predict biological agent runoff, due to precipitation and/or decontamination efforts, into nearby surface water systems.98 Infectious disease models forecasting new cases or hospitalizations are challenged by social factors such as communities or individuals implementing NPIs (e.g., social distancing, staying home from social venues), or conversely, behaviors that increase risk (e.g., increased travel particularly during weekends or holidays). They also cannot forecast emerging variants of a biological agent, which may result in either increased or decreased rates of transmissibility, virulence, or MCM effectiveness.

Furthermore, models can only generate outputs based on the quality of corresponding data inputs. Sharing of new incident data as it becomes available is critical to ensuring modeling estimates are refined, updated, and able to provide the best possible information to support decision-making. In the early phases of a biological incident, a planner may not have timely, accurate input data. (Refer to KPF 1: Detect and Characterize the Threat for more information on data collection and limitations.) Incomplete or limited data may result in models and simulations providing highly inaccurate results that should be regarded with some degree of skepticism, especially during the initial response phase of a biological incident. However, as more is known about an incident, models generally provide more refined outputs to better guide decision-making in response and recovery.

Modeling and simulation tools included in Table 5 below can be used by planners to help their jurisdictions respond to and recover from biological incidents. This list of modeling and simulation tools, decision support tools, and databases is not intended to be comprehensive, but rather is intended as a starting point for planners seeking resources to facilitate key functions and decision-making during biological incident response and recovery. Planners should begin by assessing the tools that are already in use in their jurisdictions.

What Will You Need to Know?

  • When will you need to use modeling and simulation tools? Consider all aspects of biological incident response and recovery:
    • Atmospheric dispersion event characterization and consequence analysis
    • Estimates of outpatient visits, hospitalizations, and deaths for a respiratory pandemic
    • Syndromic surveillance
    • Routing vehicle fleets to optimize delivery of MCMs/SNS/PODs
    • Flow of persons through PODs
    • Regional spread of infectious disease
    • Situational awareness, assessment, and management of resources
    • Location and availability of critical pharmaceuticals and local supplies
  • What planning, decision support, and modeling resources are available to you?
    • Which are best suited for the risks identified in your jurisdiction?
    • Which tools are already in use in your jurisdiction?
    • Are such tools integrated into your response planning?
    • Which tools are likely to be used following an incident?
  • Which FSLTT partners can support optimization of shared and available resources?
    • For what purpose are models and simulations run by a partner organization? When? Are models and simulations automatically run as part of their protocols? If not, what triggers models and simulations into action?
    • Can models and simulations be accessed by other FSLTT stakeholders?
  • Which data will be needed from you to run a partner organization’s tools?
    • How will it be provided? What agreements between organizations must be put in place prior to a biological incident to facilitate data-sharing and confidentiality?
    • How will you access current data on available medical resources (e.g., hospital beds, supplies, equipment, medical/public health personnel)?
    • Where will you obtain access to the latest population demographic data (if not built into the tool), inventories of available resources, and response impacts?
    • How will you update the relevant information―either as the input datasets for models run locally or in the request for model runs by supporting partners?
  • How will model results be reported and to whom?
    • How will model outputs be packaged and presented for decision makers?
    • How will the incorporation of the evolving results change as response unfolds?
    • Who will interpret the results? Public health or emergency management?
    • What local SMEs will be available to help clarify data and advise?
    • Who will act on the results?
Tool CapabilitiesSupport TypeTimeline
GeoHEALTH Platform
A secure, GIS-based, electronic, and interactive mapping application that provides enhanced situational awareness, assessment, and management of resources for pandemic and man-made events.

Click here for more information on the GeoHEALTH Platform.

Planning, Response, and RecoveryData continuously updated over internet
A map that provides monthly updated de-identified totals at the national, state, territorial, county, and zip code level for Medicare beneficiaries reliant on electricity-dependent medical and assistive equipment and devices who can be threatened by severe weather or other emergencies. This information helps communities to better anticipate, plan for, and address the potential needs of these at-risk individuals who may rapidly need assistance in the event of an incident, emergency, or disaster.

Click here for more information on HHS emPOWER Map.

Access HHS emPOWER Map here
PlanningData updated monthly
Inventory Management and Tracking System (IMATS)
A system that allows planners and responders to manage the large and moving MCM inventory received from the SNS. Capabilities include the ability to track MCM inventory down to the local levels; support warehouse operations; monitor reorder thresholds; record counts for dispensed MCMs; monitor operations status through a comprehensive dashboard; run reports and extracts for inventory counts and transaction data; create custom roles for users; import existing data on facilities, storage locations, products, etc.; and collect data from local jurisdictions, aggregate, and report inventory totals.

Click here for more information on IMATS.

Contact the IMATS help desk at for system access.
Response and RecoveryImmediate predictions once baseline data is entered
Community Flu 2.0
A software program that simulates the spread of influenza through a model community and the impact of a variety of potential interventions (e.g., vaccinations, school closings, wearing of face masks, patient and household isolation/self-quarantine).

Click here for more information on Community Flu 2.0.

Download the Community Flu 2.0 tool here.
PlanningLess than 5 minutes to run simulations
FluAid 2.0
A custom, stand-alone application that provides estimates of the total numbers of deaths, hospitalizations, and outpatient visits for an influenza pandemic (before interventions are applied).

Results are limited to influenza and should be treated as general guidelines only.

Click here for more information on FluAid 2.0.

Download the FluAid 2.0 tool here.
PlanningImmediate predictions once baseline data is entered
FluSurge 2.0
A macro-enabled, Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that estimates the impact of an influenza pandemic on the demand for hospital-based services. Results are limited specifically to influenza and should be treated as general guidelines only to allow identification of the approximate resources that may be required.

Click here for more information on FluSurge 2.0.

Download the FluSurge 2.0 tool here.
PlanningImmediate predictions once baseline data is entered
MedCon: Pre-Event
A software tool designed to estimate the baseline medical care requirements of a displaced population (per 100,000 unit of population) with pre-existing medical conditions following a disaster (e.g., terrorism or natural phenomenon).

Click here for more information on MedCon: Pre-Event.

Download the MedCon Pre-Event tool here.
Planning and ResponseImmediate predictions once baseline data is entered
A Microsoft Excel-based instrument that guides jurisdictional planning and outreact efforts during pre-incident preparedness activities. The tool helps local planners understand how their vaccine providers (i.e., pharmacies, clinics, hospitals, employers, school, points of dispensing) might contribute to the community's vaccination response during a severe pandemic. The tool provides information regarding how to allocate pandemic vaccine doses to each provider group.

Click here for more information on PanVax.

Download the PanVax tool here.
Planning Response, and RecoveryImmediate predictions once baseline data is entered
Maxi-Vac Programs
Microsoft Excel-based tools (Maxi-Vac 1.0 & Maxi-Vac Alternative) that can be used by state and local public health officials to plan large-scale smallpox vaccination clinics and optimize staff allocation to maximize the number of patients who can be vaccinated during a 12-hour shift.

Click here for more information on Maxi-Vac Programs.

Access the Maxi-Vac tools here.
Planning and ResponseImmediate predictions once baseline data is entered
Social Vulnerability Index (SVI)
A database and map that uses U.S. census data to determine social vulnerability of a population through 15 social factor variables, such as poverty, lack of vehicle access, and crowded housing, to help local officials identify communities that may need support before, during, or after disasters.

Click here for more information on the HHS CDC/ATSDR SVI.

Download HHS CDC/ATSDR SVI data and documentation here.
Planning, Response, and RecoveryImmediate but dependent on census data availability
Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPER)
A type of rapid needs assessment designed to provide household-level information to public health leaders and emergency managers for their use in initiating public health action; identifying information gaps; facilitating disaster planning, response, and recovery activities; allocating resources; and assessing new or changing needs in the community. This assessment represents a cross-sectional epidemiologic design and is not to be used as a surveillance tool.

Click here for more information on CASPER.

Access the CASPER tool here.
Planning, Response, and RecoveryAssessment Tools are available to download and use immediately
Point of Dispensing Simulation Program for Leveraging and Evaluating Resources. (POD SimPLER) A web-based software that helps public health planners estimate their current or projected population throughput capacity, identify potential processing bottlenecks, and determine resource needs hen planning for MCM dispensing or administration operations during an actual emergency or training event. This software can be used to assess staffing capacity for existing sites aiming to expand or modify their operations, as a validation or training tool for locations forming vaccination or dispensing plans, or as a precursor or accompanying tool for use during full-scale exercises.

Click here for more information on POD SimPLER.

Access the POD SimPLER tool here.
Planning and ResponseImmediate estimations once baseline data is entered
BioSense Platform
A secure, cloud-based, and integrated electronic health information platform designed for users to rapidly collect, evaluate, share, and store syndromic surveillance data through the use of standardized analytic tools as early as 24 hours after a patient's visit to a participating facility.

Click here for more information on the BioSense Platform.

Contact for access.
Response and Recovery24 hours after data is entered
Anthrax Assist
A Microsoft Excel-based modeling tool that allows a user to combine initial anthrax case reports and potential effects of variable PEP campaigns to project hospitalizations and casualties.

Download the Anthrax Assist tool here.
Planning and ResponseImmediate estimations once baseline data is entered
National Biosurveillance Integration Center (NBIC) Reports
A center that provides daily reports on the status of diseases such as SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19), enterovirus, the flu, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and Ebola. NBIC also produces periodic analytic reports on special topics and events, and it enables early warning and shared situational awareness of acute biological events. NBIC offers near real-time data integration capability that pulls information from a variety of sources, performs analysis of the data, and shares the results with FLSTT stakeholders.

Contact for reports.
ResponseDaily updates, and special reports as requested
Interagency Modeling and Atmospheric Assessment Center (IMAAC)
A center that provides federal atmospheric dispersion event characterization and consequence analysis for a full range of aerosolized CBRN threats. IMAAC can support postulated "what-if" scenario excursions.

Click here for more information on IMAAC.

Contact for more information and call 1-877-240-1187 to request activation.
Planning, Response, and RecoveryInitial IMAAC products are distributed within 30 minutes of request
Comprehensive National Incident Management System (CNIMS)
A set of tools to model regional spread of non-vector-borne infectious diseases and provide detailed, agent-based simulation of the U.S. population. Tools can model a variety of scenarios with and without planned response measures/interventions. This sophisticated epidemiological modeling capability requires a long lead time and can only be accessed through the National Guard's Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Civil Support Teams (CST) or FEMA Regional authorities.

DTRA's Joint Operations Center (JOC) has existing MOUs with the National Guard Bureau (to support National Guard WMD-CST) and with DHS (FEMA) (to support federal planners).

Authorized requestors can contact the JOC (703-767-2003 or by email to to request a run.
Planning and ResponseApprox. 12 hours for large-scale simulation (millions of people); faster for smaller scale runs
PatchSim [University of Virginia, DoD DTRA] A model that maps human mobility via metapopulations or "patches" of individuals in various disease states and their movement between patches (which can represent localities in areas being modeled).

Access the PatchSim tool here.
Planning and ResponseImmediate predictions once data is entered
A medium-grained, geographically resolved model that is based on differential equation-type simulations of disease and epidemic progression in the presence of various human interventions geared toward understanding the role of infection control, early versus late diagnosis, vaccination, etc. in outbreak control.

Contact DoD DTRA for tool access and more information
Planning and ResponseImmediate predictions once data is entered
Trade-off Tool for Sampling (TOTS)
A web-based tool that allows users to create sampling designs and estimate the associated resource demand through an interactive, point-and-click interface for developing biological sampling plans. TOTS estimates the total time and cost necessary for implementation, which includes sampling kit preparation, conducting the sampling campaign, and lab analysis.

Click here for more information on TOTS.

Access TOTS here.
PlanningImmediate predictions once data is entered
Waste Storage and Staging Site Selection Tool
An all-hazards tool that provides a framework for conducting a site selection suitability analysis to identify and rank potential locations for staging and storing waste.

Click here for more information on the Waste Storage and Staging Site Selection Tool.

Access the Waste Storage and Staging Site Selection Tool here.
Response and RecoveryImmediate predictions once data is entered
Incident Waste Decision Support Tool
A tool that allows planners, emergency responders, and other individuals responsible for making disposal decisions to access technical information, regulations, and guidance and work through important disposal issues to assure safe and efficient removal, transport, treatment, and/or disposal of debris and waste materials. Waste Materials Estimator generates the order of magnitude estimates for the types and quantities of materials that may require decontamination and/or disposal from one or more structure types.

Click here for more information on I-WASTE DST.
Planning, Response and RecoveryImmediate predictions once data is entered
Waste Management Planning (WMP) Tool
A tool that assists emergency managers and planners in creating or updating a comprehensive plan for managing waste generated from man-made and natural disasters. The tool walks the user through the process of developing and implementing a plan.

Click here for more information on the WMP Tool.
PlanningImmediate predictions once data is entered
Waste Estimation Support Tool (WEST)
A tool that assists emergency planners, responders, and decision makers in analyzing remediation strategies and associated waste management impacts of biological and radiological remediation. The tool provides first order magnitude estimates of waste to illuminate how waste estimates change among decontamination/remediation approaches considered, and it uses geospatial data to assist in defining the extent of contamination in specified areas.

Click here for more information on WEST.

Access WEST here.
Response and RecoveryImmediate predictions once data is entered
Suite for Automated Global Electronic bioSurveillance (SAGES_
[John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory]
A collection of modular, flexible, freely available software tools for electronic disease surveillance in resource-limited settings. Builds upon the DoD-sponsored Electronic Surveillance System for Early Notification of Community-based Epidemics (ESSENCE) syndromic surveillance system. Detects outbreaks and alerts public health personnel. Applies syndrome definitions, statistical algorithms to identify possible outbreaks in medical encounter data.

Click here for more information on SAGES.

Download the SAGES tool here.
ResponseOnce system is set up and dashboard configuration established, updates are continuous as additional data is collected


98. There are surface water modeling tools for CBRN agents, but their use is complicated by multiple sources (e.g., runoffs) versus single source release.