Simulation exercises are extremely useful for testing and refining the contingency plans in advance of any disease emergency. They are also a very valuable means for building teams for emergency disease responses and for training individual staff.
As realistic a disease outbreak scenario as possible should be devised for the exercises, using real data where possible (e.g. for livestock locations, populations and trading routes). The scenario may cover one or more time phases during the outbreak, with possibly a range of outcomes. However, neither the scenario nor the exercise should be overly complicated or long. It is best to test just one system at a time (e.g. operation of a Local Disease Control Centre). Simulation exercises may be done purely as a paper exercise or through mock activities, or a combination of both approaches. At the immediate completion of each simulation exercise, there should be a post-mortem of the results. This review should identify areas where plans need to be modified and further training needs.
A full-scale disease outbreak simulation exercise should only be attempted after the individual components of the disease control response have been tested and proven. Premature exercises of this nature may be counterproductive. Care must be taken that simulation exercises are not confused with actual outbreaks in the minds of the media and the public.
All staff should be thoroughly trained in their roles, duties and responsibilities in a CBPP emergency. Obviously, more intense training will need to be given to those who will be in key positions. It should also be borne in mind that any staff member, from the CVO downwards, might be absent or might need to be relieved during a disease emergency for one reason or another. Back-up staff should therefore be trained for each position.
Contingency plans, once prepared, should not be treated as static documents. They should rather be regarded as dynamic documents that need to be regularly reviewed and updated as warranted by changing circumstances. In reviewing and updating CBPP contingency plans, the following factors should be taken into account:
- changing epidemiological situations, both within the country and externally;
- new CBPP threats;
- changes in livestock production systems and trade requirements (internal or export);
- changes in national legislation or in the structure or capabilities of government veterinary services (or other government agencies or mechanisms); and
- experiences (from both within the country and from neighbouring countries), results from training or simulation exercises, and feedback from major stakeholders, including farmers.