Building Emergency Planning Scenarios for Viral Pandemics

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David E. Alexander with IRDR Staff and Students


The purpose of this report is to provide a systematic, if incomplete, record of the issues connected with the Covid-19 pandemic in order to improve the basis for future emergency planning. Like all large disasters, Covid-19 involves cascading consequences. These need to be factored into future emergency planning scenarios.


For known and evident risks, scenarios are a necessary part of the formulation of emergency plans. They enable planners to foresee problems and create robust procedures to prepare for them in advance and confront them when they materialise.

High-quality emergency planning prescribes what to do in an emergency and how to ramp up measures rapidly by means of prior agreements and pathways. It also teaches what should not be neglected in the response. Pandemics are recurrent phenomena. They may also be exacerbated by human misuse of environmental resources. Hence, it is important to learn from experience and incorporate the lessons into plans for future events.

A major pandemic will have a complex impact that profoundly affects the basis of ordinary life and extends into many different fields and activities. This report classifies the elements of that impact in a manner designed to act as an aide memoir for emergency planners, managers and responders. The aim is to develop a comparative overview of the issues, needs and some of the solutions that planners can apply. There are no great revelations in this work. Indeed, emergency planning is sometimes regarded as 'codified common sense', but the art of codifying is a rigorous and demanding one.