Crisis preparedness and response

Testing and evaluation of plans

After finalising structure and content of any preparedness planning, an important step is to test and evaluate the plan. To verify coherence and feasibility of the planning, exercises are regularly set up.

The EC has a role in co-ordinating the different national responses in a crisis in order to improve the effectiveness of the overall response. In order to improve the understanding of interactions and to identify the improvements needed, the planning, conduct and evaluation of appropriate exercises at regular intervals is essential.

Since 2005, the Commission organises two exercises aiming at evaluation and improvement of the ability of Member States and of the Commission to work in a co-ordinated fashion in the management of such events. A better knowledge of each other’s plans and their interactions provides public health authorities in the European Community with a better basis to manage a major event and improved communication will greatly enhance the effectiveness and speed of national and EU actions.

The exercises were a success and allowed to identify necessary improvements in communication, cooperation, coordination and other areas.

New Watchman Exercise

Exercise New Watchman was conducted on 19 and 20 October 2005. This exercise was intended to evaluate the communication, and Member States’ responses and interactions, within the EU, during a deliberate release of smallpox and the implementation of national plans by Member States.

In addition to the 25 Member States and the European Commission, other countries and organisations were invited to take part. Observers from the newly-formed EU Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) were invited to participate along with the EEA States, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

New Watchman exercise report

Common Ground Exercise

Common Ground exercise was conducted on 23 and 24 November 2005 and involved hundreds of players across the Commission, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the European Agency for the Evaluation of Medicinal Products (EMEA) Member States, third countries, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and pharmaceutical industry. During these two days, players at all locations responded to a series of fictitious emergency events simulating a major pandemic caused by a new human flu strain in Europe. The aim was to test the execution and interaction of national plans and measures, (such as restriction of movement, business continuity, communications and distribution of vaccines), as well as examining the role of the Commission. The exercise involved crisis rooms in national Health ministries and agencies, linked up through early warning and monitoring secure systems.

Common Ground exercise report

Exercise Aeolus

Exercise Aeolus was commissioned by the European Commission (EC) Directorate General for Health and Consumers (DG SANCO) and conducted by the UK’s Health Protection Agency (HPA) as a command post exercise over a two-day period from 7 to 8 October 2008. The main purpose of Exercise Aeolus was to examine the capability of departments and institutions at Member State and Commission level to work together and share information during a fast-evolving health threat which cuts across departmental responsibilities. The exercise addressed cross-sectoral communication and collaboration at national and EU level.

All twenty-seven Member States (MS) of the European Union were invited to participate in the exercise, plus representation was invited from the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) States (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland). Representatives from health organisations within each EU Member State and EFTA State participated actively in the exercise. Planners were also encouraged to invite relevant law enforcement, food and medicines agencies within their country to participate during the exercise. In addition, European and International organisations participating in the exercise included the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), Europol, several departments within DG SANCO, and the European office of the World Health Organisation (WHO-Euro).

Exercise Aeolus demonstrated that in a real event, departments and institutions at a Member State (MS) and DG SANCO at Commission level are able to be brought together at short notice and share information and work together to ensure a faster resolution to an EU wide health threat that crossed different departments and institutions.

Exercise Aeolus report