Simulation exercises are useful for testing and refining contingency plans in advance of any disease emergency. They are a valuable means for building teams for emergency disease responses and for training individual staff.
Realistic disease-outbreak scenarios should be devised for the exercises, using real data where possible for such elements as livestock locations, populations and trading routes. A scenario may cover one or more time phases during the outbreak, with a range of outcomes. Neither the scenario nor the exercise should be too complicated or long, however. It is best to test one system at a time, for example operation of a local disease-control centre. Simulation exercises may be done as a paper exercise, through mock activities or a combination of both approaches. At the completion of each simulation exercise, there should be an assessment of the results. This review should identify areas where plans need to be modified and further training provided.
A full-scale disease outbreak simulation exercise should only be attempted after individual components of the disease control response have been tested and proved. Exercises attempted before this has been done may be counterproductive. Care must be taken that simulation exercises are not confused with actual outbreaks by the media and the public.
Staff should be thoroughly trained in their roles, duties and responsibilities in an ASF emergency. More intensive training will need to be given to those who will be in key positions. It should be borne in mind that any staff member, from the CVO downwards, may be absent or may need to be relieved during a disease emergency. Backup staff should therefore be trained for each position.
Contingency plans should not be treated as static but as documents that regularly need reviewing and updating to reflect changing circumstances. In reviewing and updating ASF contingency plans, the following factors should be taken into account: