Three problems with state plans for a flu pandemic

The plans are written by public health officials, so they focus on disease detection and control. That’s fine as far as it goes, but the plans fail to cover topics outside of that scope, such as “assuring surge capacity in the healthcare sector, the continuity of essential services, or the integrity of critical supply chains.” So the plans “may require stronger engagement by emergency management officials and others in planning.”

The U.S. government tends to give state governments wide discretion and flexibility in planning for emergencies such as hurricanes, earthquakes or terrorism, because the effects may vary by state. But “a flu pandemic is perhaps unique in that it would be likely to affect all states at nearly the same time, in ways that are fairly predictable. This may argue for a more directive federal role in setting pandemic preparedness requirements.”

“[T]he matter of what the states should do to be prepared for a pandemic is not always clear. For example, uncertainties about the ways in which flu spreads, the lack of national consensus in matters of equity in rationing, and a long tradition of federal deference to states in matters of public health, all complicate efforts to set uniform planning requirements for states.”

Source: Adapted from “Pandemic Influenza: An Analysis of State Preparedness and Response Plans,” report RL34190, U.S. Congressional Research Service (24 September 2007); posted by OpenCRS

Related: Pandemic disaster planning: IT and security managers give themselves a grade of C-minus, and that’s generous

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