Talk about timing. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, is currently in the middle of a two-year pandemic training exercise with New York City and northern New Jersey.
Titled “2013-14 Pandemic Influenza Continuity Exercise Strategy,” the FEMA training simulates a global pandemic of influenza that spreads from person to person, including in the U.S.
The Obama administration, meanwhile, is under fire for its mishandling of the Ebola crisis, allowing infected people to enter the country and cause widespread panic and political turmoil as officials make claims and promises that turn out to be false.
The FEMA training began last year, before the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which has killed nearly 5,000 people.
An overview of the training includes a list of assumptions such as that the “clinical disease attack rate will likely be 30 percent or higher in the overall population,” utilizing a prediction from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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The FEMA overview, which includes a training schedule, warns that economists, epidemiologists and other experts predict the “effects of a modern-day pandemic will be seen in every industry and government agency at local, regional, national and international levels.”
The overview states: “History teaches us that the impact of a pandemic can be far-reaching. The 1918 ‘Spanish Flu’ influenza killed approximately 30,000 people in NYC, 500,000 in the United States and as many as 50-100 million worldwide. Furthermore, it leads to widespread social disruption and economic loss.”
The overview states a pandemic can “threaten all critical infrastructures by its impact on an organization’s human resources causing a loss of essential personnel from the workplace for weeks or months.”
FEMA is preparing for the possibility that 40 to 50 percent of both government and private-sector staff will be absent for periods of about two weeks at the height of a pandemic wave.
A wave is defined by FEMA as a period in which community outbreaks occur across the country. The simulated outbreak assumes multiple waves of the pandemic illness could occur, with each wave lasting two to three months.
Numerous training events and seminars have already been held the past 10 months. On Nov. 13, FEMA is planning a “Pandemic Influenza Wave 1 Full Scale Exercise.”