Federal Terrorism Drill Tests The Limits of Crisis Plans In Three Markets

How would a disaster involving weapons of mass destruction affect your hospital crisis communications plan? Would you be able to manage the release of critical information
while minimizing the panic caused by terrorist attacks? This month, a federally mandated counterterrorisim drill will force hospitals in Denver, Portsmouth, N.H., and the
Washington, D.C. area to answer these questions. The drill is meant to test how quickly various emergency responders can identify and diagnose biological, chemical and nuclear
attacks, conduct mass immunizations and deliver massive emergency patient care. The exercise will involve a mock news channel, coordinated by the Department of Justice and the
Federal Emergency Management Agency, called the Virtual News Network, that will send out "news crews" to cover the various disasters. Officials will need to decide what to tell
the public and how to best minimize wide-scale panic. This will be the first disaster exercise of its kind, involving top-level federal, state and local officials.