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Lessons from Dark Winter and Atlantic Storm applied to seasonal Influenza

Biologic Tabletop Exercises can help Influenza preparedness

Everyone remembers Hurricane Katrina. Did you know that about a year before Katrina there was another devastating hurricane? Just about a year before Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, Hurricane Pam ripped through causing the levee system to fail, flooding New Orleans, and causing destruction on nearly a life for life, dollar for dollar par with Katrina. The storm was Hurricane Pam and you didn’t read about this storm in the paper or see it on television. Why doesn't anyone remember Hurricane Pam? You don’t remember Pam because it never actually happened...Hurricane Pam was a tabletop exercise (TTX) that predicted with eerie accuracy what would happen if a major hurricane scored a direct hit on the Gulf Coast. The point is that we can learn a lot from our own exercises if we listen. In this post I’m suggesting we learn the lessons from two biologic event tabletop exercises...

In the setting of a naturally occurring or intentional biologic attack how will countries manage shortages of medicine, vaccines, and medical supplies? What mechanisms will be used to control or halt the spread of disease? How will local and national leaders balance their responsibilities to their own citizens with their responsibilities to the international community?

These are the questions we should be asking ourselves and these are the issues addressed by two tabletop exercises Dark Winter and Atlantic Storm.

Click the player below for staged media footage used in Dark Winter.

Watch Dark Winter Pretext for TOPOFF/CCMRF/CBRNE Martial Law Drills in Educational & How-To | View More Free Videos Online at

In June of 2001, the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies along with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Analytic Services Institute for Homeland Defense held a senior-level tabletop exercise that simulated the effects of a covert biological attack on the United States. The dissemination of highly contagious smallpox as an act of terrorism became known as the “Dark Winter” scenario. This one-of-a-kind TTx examined the ability of senior-level policy makers to face the challenges of a bioterrorist attack with outbreaks of highly contagious diseases.

A few years later, in January, 2005, a similar exercise took place. This time among the international leadership community, known as Atlantic Storm, this TTx continued on a larger scale from the Dark Winter exercise. Atlantic Storm simulated the heads of state and senior international governmental leaders attempting to manage a simultaneous bioterror attack. The attack was centered on Istanbul, Frankfurt, Warsaw, Rotterdam, New York, and Los Angeles with Smallpox as the weapon.

Already know it all? Think again. Atlantic Storm verbalizes many of the issues discussed in recent studies as well as historic preparedness problems. An excellent real-life example, Atlantic Storm is also a high quality tabletop exercise, complete with PDF user guides and downloadable documents, Atlantic Storm provides an outstanding example of power a tabletop exercise (TTX) can bring to the planning and training process.

A review of Dark Winter and Atlantic Storm is a useful tool for traditional and non-traditional responders. Take an hour and view the presentation, review the documentation. To view Atlantic Storm; go to: and turn up you speakers!

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