Pandemic Communications: Are You Ready?

The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security recently released an innovative exercise scenario designed for use as a self-guided tabletop training tool for public health emergency preparation. The fictional narrative, titled “The SPARS Pandemic, 2025-2028: A Futuristic Scenario for Public Health Risk Communicators,” raises critical communication dilemmas regarding medical countermeasures during public health crises. Further, it encourages active problem-solving and response-rehearsal: “This scenario was designed to illustrate the public health risk communication challenges associated with distribution of emergency medical countermeasures during an infectious disease pandemic.”

The narrative follows the phases of an unfolding public health emergency, in this case the outbreak of a naturally occurring infectious disease, and points out potential communications challenges. It includes nineteen chapters that are divided into two sections: “Response” and “Recovery.” Each chapter covers a stage in the unfolding of a public health crisis, and concludes with a critical communication dilemma and questions that users are encouraged to consider in order to improve emergency response and communication to the public during crises.

This resource is both timely and unique as it specifically addresses social media trends and use as a communication mechanism during public health crises. It also discusses how to prepare for the rapid spread of information via social media during emergencies.

The chronological nature of the narrative makes it simple for readers to convert it to a tabletop exercise and glean valuable information regarding opportunities for improving emergency response plans and preparedness. This is a valuable resource for those in public health and risk communications, and addresses important questions and problems that affect many other fields related to public health and homeland security.

Non-registered users may access the full report here. The HSDL provides many resources of this and similar topics. Visit the Featured Topics to find more on Pandemic Influenza, Mass Evacuation, and Social Media Use in Emergencies.