The effects of a global influenza pandemic on critical infrastructures and essential service providers was the focus of the fourth Blue Cascades regional interdependencies tabletop exercise, held January 25, 2007 in Seattle, WA. Participants included more than 250 representatives from public, private sector, non-profit, academic, community, and other organizations. The overall goal of the exercise was to raise awareness of impacts on critical infrastructures and essential services from a pandemic and of stakeholder preparedness plans and resources; illuminate issues related to roles and missions; and gauge the effectiveness of regional communications and coordination. A major objective of Blue Cascades IV was to enable participants to identify shortfalls and potential solutions that could be incorporated into a regional pandemic preparedness Action Plan.
The scenario, procedures, and supporting materials for Blue Cascades IV were developed by a Scenario Design Team of more than 50 key stakeholders, with facilitation provided by the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region, a state-chartered consortium of five states (Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Idaho, and Montana) and three Canadian jurisdictions (British Columbia, Alberta, and The Yukon Territory). The scenario focused on Puget Sound, Washington State and cross-national border activities in response to a hypothetical avian influenza H5N1 outbreak that spreads to the United States from Asia.
During the day-long exercise, participants were provided “mini-briefings” from public health officials and experts on local, state, federal and private sector pandemic plans and policies. Among topics explored were public health impacts, implementation of disease control measures such as quarantines, isolation, travel restrictions, school closures, and bans on public gatherings; personnel shortages and related human factors; and impacts on transportation, water and waster water systems, supply chains (e.g., food and pharmaceutical supplies), hospitals, financial institutions, electric power, natural gas, and fuel. Also addressed were the roles of the National Guard, law enforcement, private security personnel, the Coast Guard, and regional military assets. A particular focus of the scenario was telecommuting and communications challenges and associated cyber security concerns related to employees working from their homes during a pandemic. The exercise scenario in addition looked at the ability of responders to deal with other disasters during a pandemic (in this case, a severe storm) and focused on restoration activities through a second wave of the influenza pandemic.