Some days just seem to have a motif; today is one such day. Today it's running from the computer, screaming as I gouge my eyes from their sockets. My day job was one of those days that reduce me to wondering if I really do like to eat regularly and have a roof over my head.
As I was chomping on my lunch buzzing through FluWikie's News Diary for today I came across a post that got my blood pumping with (good) excitement. A snip from a larger piece was prefaced by "Royal Canadian Mounted Police Get It":
In addition to operational readiness, one of the key messages that emergency planners are sending to employees is to be personally prepared.
Large-scale emergencies pose unique psychological, social and physical challenges even for experienced first responders. Because many employees live in the same communities in which they serve, there is a good chance they will be personally affected when disaster strikes. This could result in not reporting for work or being distracted out of concern for their families or their own personal safety.
"Workforce resilience is the underpinning of everything that we do," says Neily. "If our people are not personally prepared to be at work with the comfort that their loved ones are being taken care of, then we are going to have a challenge."
I was totally deflated when I got home and read the entire piece.
The first paragraph from the RCMP Gazette cover story:
Preparing for a pandemic
National plan starts with individual readiness
By Katherine Aldred
The estimates speak for themselves. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), over the course of an influenza pandemic, up to 70 per cent of the population will become infected and between 15 and 35 per cent will become clinically ill and miss work. If antivirals are not available, 1 per cent of the ill will be hospitalized and 0.4 per cent will die.
Reading that paragraph I just wanted to scream and toss my laptop across the room—and then gouge out my eyes. Yes, I truly was that upset.
This was the official information two years ago. Two years ago—before we had scientific findings, computer models, and reassessments of both.
OK, sure, the next pandemic could be this mild. My problem is the presentation of these figures as a foregone conclusion—that it won't and can't be worse.
"We don't know when a pandemic will occur, what the cause will be, how severe it will be or who will be hardest hit," says Dr. Arlene King, director general for Pandemic Preparedness at PHAC. "We do know one thing: when any emergency hits, it's too late to be doing the planning. The structures, processes and tools have to be in place."
Police agencies involved in responding to a pandemic must be prepared not only to deal with the complex requirements of a public health emergency but to carry on their normal day-to-day operations with a greatly diminished workforce. The challenge is getting ready.
They say the right (scripted) words.
According to Neily, the RCMP could be called in to provide a number of different functions during a pandemic such as enforcing public health orders like quarantines and travel restrictions, limiting access to areas deemed out of bounds, transporting and protecting medical equipment or medications, protecting certain types of facilities and, in a worst-case scenario, controlling crowds.
And like any operational response, police must be prepared for the conditions — in this case, a contagious disease.
"From a health point of view, our preparedness plan outmatches anything out there," says Legault. "One of the greatest challenges will be trying to assist with public order and containment measures to prevent the spread of the virus while a vaccine is being developed. We may also be enforcing social distancing measures and there are always people who do not want to follow that."
Although they are saying the right things about preparing for a pandemic, they are quite probably preparing for the wrong pandemic. The mild pandemic they are preparing for is one as happened in 1957, what the US CDC (the Centers for Disease Control) has quantified as a category 2 pandemic.
A category 2 on the pandemic severity scale will only occur if the influenza strain (whether H5N1 or not) is not a wholly avian strain of influenza, instead it would require that the avian strain swaps genes with a human influenza virus. Sure, it could happen, but why plan for it to happen that way when there is no guarantee that it will?
Planning for a mild pandemic and being socked with a severe one will cost lives, many lives, many RCMP lives. Planning for a severe pandemic and only having to deal with a mild one costs nothing but a bit more money and a few more brain cells.
Perhaps they will get a clue before it is too late to act upon it.