NGA plans pandemic tests

WASHINGTON: The National Governors Association (NGA) plans to organize as many as 10 regional exercises in the next 18 months that include state public affairs officials and members of the local media testing "best practices" for responding to an outbreak of pandemic influenza.

WASHINGTON: The National Governors Association (NGA) plans to organize as many as 10 regional exercises in the next 18 months that include state public affairs officials and members of the local media testing "best practices" for responding to an outbreak of pandemic influenza.

John Thomasian, director of the NGA's Center for Best Practices, said the "table-top" exercises would include representatives from a variety of local and state agencies likely to be involved in a health crisis, from firefighters and police to food-safety inspectors and other health officials, and would cover such issues as public communications.

"We'd probably have five or six states per region come together and walk through pre-pandemic and during-pandemic scenarios," said Thomasian.

The exercises, which will also likely involve the Department of Health and Human Services or the Department of Homeland Security, will be based on the NGA's just released guide, Preparing for a Pandemic Influenza: A Primer for Governors and Senior State Officials. It is meant to help state and local governments deal with legal responsibilities, school closings, gatherings, and even quarantines during an outbreak, without waiting for federal aid.

States in recent months have conducted media training for their health agencies to better prepare to communicate about emergencies, but the NGA effort is designed to be more comprehensive. It involves all the many state agencies that would likely be involved in responding to a crisis like pandemic influenza.

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