COVID-19: Exercises Hurricane Pam and Crimson Contagion -- What They Have in Common

History does repeat itself after all!

by Eric Holdeman / March 24, 2020

Hurricane Pam was an exercise that was held in the summer of 2004 almost exactly one year before Hurricane Katrina hit the United States. The focus of the Hurricane Pam Exercise was on the state of Louisiana and New Orleans. I was told anecdotally that New Orleans did not have staff participate in the exercise in any significant way. 

As for "history repeating itself," there was a 2019 Pandemic Flu exercise called Crimson Contagion Described as a "whole of government" exercise that left out the most important person to participate -- the president! It is not unusual to not have the president participate. In the Army, I played in top secret, classified exercises where a former secretary of defense played the president. However, if you could have gotten him to the table -- it could not have hurt, given our collective national performance. 

The New York Times has the details in this article and the comparisons to where we are today with coronavirus and the lessons learned from Crimson Contagion are "right on the mark." See the article, Before Virus Outbreak, a Cascade of Warnings Went Unheeded.

As I've written about before, the "lessons learned" usually, almost always, end up being "lessons observed" since no one takes actions on the findings of the exercise. The proximity of the exercise last year to today's events are as eerily similar as Exercise Pam was to the actual Hurricane Katrina. 



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