Journal of Medical Systems

, Volume 36, Issue 3, pp 1475–1483 | Cite as

A New Method of Exercising Pandemic Preparedness Through an Interactive Simulation and Visualization

  • Ozgur M. ArazEmail author
  • Megan Jehn
  • Timothy Lant
  • John W. Fowler


As seen in the spring 2009 A/H1N1 influenza outbreak, influenza pandemics can have profound social, legal and economic effects. This experience has also made the importance of public health preparedness exercises more evident. Universities face unique challenges with respect to pandemic preparedness due to their dense student populations, location within the larger community and frequent student/faculty international travel. Depending on the social structure of the community, different mitigation strategies should be applied for decreasing the severity and transmissibility of the disease. To this end, Arizona State University has developed a simulation model and tabletop exercise that facilitates decision-maker interactions around emergency-response scenarios. This simulation gives policy makers the ability to see the real-time impact of their decisions. Therefore, tabletop exercises with computer simulations are developed to practice these decisions, which can possibly give opportunities for practicing better policy implementations. This paper introduces a new method of designing and performing table-top exercises for pandemic influenza via state-of-the-art technologies including system visualization and group decision making with a supporting simulation model. The presented exercise methodology can increase readiness for a pandemic through the support of computer and information technologies and the survey results that we include in this paper certainly support this result. The video scenarios and the computer simulation model make the exercise appear very compelling and real, which makes this presented method of exercising different than the other table-top exercises in the literature. Finally, designing a pandemic preparedness exercise with supporting technologies can help identifying the communication gaps between responsible authorities and advance the table-top exercising methodology.


Pandemic influenza Exercises and preparedness Policy visualization Simulation models 


  1. 1.
    Anderson, R. M., and May, R. M., Infectious diseases of Humans: Dynamics and Control. Oxford Science Publications, 1992.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Araz, O. M., Lant, T., Fowler, J., and Jehn, M., A simulation model for policy decision analysis: a case of influenza pandemic on a university campus. J of Sim, 2010. doi: 10.1057/jos.2010.6.zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Beaton, R., Stergachis, A., Thompson, J., Osaki, C., Johnson, C., Charvat, S. J., and Marsden-Haug, N., Pandemic policy and planning considerations for universities: Findings from a tabletop exercise. Biosecur BioTerror 5(4):327–334, 2007. doi: 10.1089/bsp.2007.0029.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Chowell, G., Ammon, C. E., Hengartner, N. W., and Hyman, J. M., Transmission dynamics of the great influenza pandemic of 1918 in Geneva, Switzerland: Assessing the effects of the hypothetical interventions. J Theor Biol 241:193–204, 2006.MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Christie, P. M. J., and Levary, R. R., The use of simulation in planning the transportation of patients to hospitals following a disaster. J. Med. Syst. 22(5):289–300, 1998.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Community Strategy for Pandemic Influenza Mitigation. February 2007. Accessed in August 2008.
  7. 7.
    Dausey, D. J., Buehler, J. W., and Lurie, N., Designing and conducting tabletop exercises to assess public health preparedness for manmade and naturally occurring biological threats. BMC Public Health 7:92, 2007. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-7-92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Decker, K. C., and Holtermann, K., The role for exercises in senior policy pandemic influenza preparedness. Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management: Vol. 6: Iss. 1, Article 32., 2009. doi: 10.2202/1547-7355.1521.
  9. 9.
    Edsall, R. M., and Larson, K. L., Effectiveness of a semi-immersive virtual environment in understanding human-environment interactions. Cartogr Geogr Inf Sci 36(4):367–384, 2009.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Ge, L., Mourits, M. C., Kristensen, A. R., and Huirne, R. B. M., A modelling approach to support dynamic decision-making in the control of FMD epidemics. Prev Vet Med 95:167–174, 2010.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Hodge, J. G., Jr., The legal landscape for school closures in response to pandemic flu or other public health threats. Biosecurity and Bioterrorism: Biodefense Strategy, Practice, and Science 7(1):45–50, 2009. doi: 10.1089/bsp.2009.0006.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Jenval, J., Morin, M., Timpka, T., and Eriksson, H., Simulation as Decision Support in Pandemic Influenza Preparedness and Response. Proceedings ISCRAM 2007 (B. Van de Walle, P. Burghardt and C. Nieuwenhuis, eds.).Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Moghadas, S. M., Pizzi, N. J., Wu, J., and Yan, P., Managing public health crises: the role of models in pandemic preparedness. Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses 3(2):75–79, 2009.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Morrow, C. B., and Novick, L. F., A case exercise in public health preparedness: A community outbreak of influenza-like illness. J Public Health Manag Pract 11(4):306–310, 2005.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Powersim Software AS (2003).
  16. 16.
    Rutherford, W. H., The place of exercises in disaster management. Injury 21:58–60, 1990.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Sarpy, S. A., Warren, S. R., Kaplan, S., Bradley, J., and Howe, R. Simulating public health response to a Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) event: A comprehensive and systematic approach to designing, implementing, and evaluating a tabletop exercise. J. Public Health Manag. Pract. 75–82, 2005.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Steward, D., and Wan, T. T. H., The role of simulation and modeling in disaster management. J Med Syst 31:125–130, 2007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Taylor, J. L., Roup, B. J., Blythe, D., Reed, G. K., Tate, T. A., and Moore, K. A., Pandemic influenza preparedness in Maryland: Improving readiness through a tabletop exercise. Biosecurity and Bioterrorism: Biodefense Strategy, Practice and Science 3:61–69, 2005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Wood, K., and Supinski, S. B., Pandemic influenza tabletop exercises: A primer for the classroom and beyond. Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Vol. 5: Iss. 1, Article 36, 2008. doi: 10.2202/1547-7355.1453.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ozgur M. Araz
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Megan Jehn
    • 3
  • Timothy Lant
    • 4
  • John W. Fowler
    • 5
  1. 1.Center for Computational Biology and BioinformaticsThe University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  2. 2.Information, Risk and Operations Management Department of Red McCombs School of BusinessThe University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  3. 3.School of Health Policy and Management, W.P. Carey School of BusinessArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  4. 4.Decision Theater, Arizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  5. 5.Industrial Engineering DepartmentArizona State UniversityTempeUSA

Personalised recommendations