Pandemic planning exercises 2001-2019: Dark Winter – Lock Step – Event 201

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  • Sun, Jan 03, 2021 - 09:11am



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    Pandemic planning exercises 2001-2019: Dark Winter – Lock Step – Event 201


in case that people are not aware that pandemic scenarios have been planned and execised in great detail for over two decades, I am posting a couple of pointers (as a follow-up to this question). Please feel free to ask for more details or add your own research.

Noteworthy exercises were:

  • Dark Winter (2001),
  • Global Mercury (2003),
  • Atlantic Storm (2005),
  • Clade X (2018), and last but not least
  • Event 201 (October 2019).

Also, there is the Lock Step scenario from 2010 which elaborates on possible responses to a pandemic threat.

Dark Winter (2001)

  • Date: June 22-23, 2001, Washington, DC, Andrews Air Force Base
  • Organization/sponsoring: Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Studies, ANSER Institute for Homeland Security, Oklahoma City National Memorial Institute for the Prevention Terrorism

Scenario as outlined on the website:

With tensions rising in the Taiwan Straits, and a major crisis developing in Southwest Asia, a smallpox outbreak was confirmed by the CDC in Oklahoma City. During the thirteen days of the game, the disease spread to 25 states and 15 other countries. Fourteen participants and 60 observers witnessed terrorism/warfare in slow motion. Discussions, debates […], and decisions focused on the public health response, lack of an adequate supply of smallpox vaccine, roles and missions of federal and state governments, civil liberties associated with quarantine and isolation, the role of DoD, and potential military responses to the anonymous attack. Additionally, a predictable 24/7 news cycle quickly developed that focused the nation and the world on the attack and response. Five representatives from the national press corps (including print and broadcast) participated in the game and conducted a lengthy press conference with the President.



Global Mercury (2003)

  • Date: 8 and 10 September 2003
  • Participants: GHSAG nations (= Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the United Kingdom, the United States), World Health Organization, European Commission

Scenario as outlined in the Post Execise Report:

The scenario for Exercise Global Mercury […] depicted an attack using fictitious self-inoculated terrorists to spread smallpox internationally to target countries. The exercise was designed to elicit public health interventions rather than a full counter-terrorism response. The scenario was designed to introduce “live” cases of smallpox into some countries and contacts into others to develop the whole range of possible national responses.



Atlantic Storm (2005)

  • Date: January 14, 2005
  • Organization/sponsoring: Center for Biosecurity of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Center for Transatlantic Relations of the Johns Hopkins University, Transatlantic Biosecurity Network, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, German Marshall Fund of the United States, Nuclear Threat Initiative

Scenario as outlined in the After-Action Report:

Atlantic Storm portrayed bioterrorist attacks using variola major—the virus that causes smallpox—in multiple European and North American cities. The exercise illustrated the international challenges that would arise in the wake of a major bioterrorist attack or a naturally occurring pandemic of infectious disease.


Lock Step (2010)

Lock Step is one of four scenarios outlined in the report “Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development”.

The ‘Lock Step’ scenario as outlined on page 18 of the report:

In 2012, the pandemic that the world had been anticipating for years finally hit. Unlike 2009’s H1N1, this new influenza strain — originating from wild geese — was extremely virulent and deadly. Even the most pandemic-prepared nations were quickly overwhelmed when the virus streaked around the world, infecting nearly 20 percent of the global population and killing8 million in just seven months […]. The pandemic also had a deadly effect on economies: international mobility of both people and goods screeched to a halt, debilitating industries like tourism and breaking global supply chains. Even locally, normally bustling shops and office buildings sat empty for months, devoid of both employees and customers. […]

The focus of the ‘Lock Step’ scenario was to simulate

[…] a world of tighter top-down government control and more authoritarian leadership […] The Chinese government’s quick imposition and enforcement of mandatory quarantine for all citizens, as well as its instant and near-hermetic sealing off of all borders, saved millions of lives, stopping the spread of the virus far earlier than in other countries and enabling a swifter post-pandemic recovery. […]”

More background by German journalist Norbert Häring on the “Lock Step” scenario and its narrative: Lock Step – The eerily prescient pandemic scenario of the Rockefeller Foundation.


MARS (2017)

Meeting of G20 public health politicians in Berlin, dealing with the MARS scenario (MARS = Mountain Associated Respiratory Syndrome).

Later this year, the German government indroduces a team of public health consults, including Jeremy Farrar (Wellcome Trust), Christopher Elias (Gates Foundation), and Christian Drosten (Charité Berlin). Side note: Dr. Drosten became the ‘medical’ face of the actual Coronavirus pandemic, similar to Dr. Fauci in the U.S.


Clade X (2018)

  • Date: May 15, 2018, in Washington, DC
  • Organization/sponsoring: Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security

The ‘Clade X’ scenario was dealing with a bioterrorism attack aiming at reducing the world population. The script for this exercise was written by Tara O’Toole who also wrote the script for ‘Dark Winter’ (2001).


Event 201 (2019)

  • Date: October 18, 2019, New York, NY
  • Organization/sponsoring: Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, World Economic Forum, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Documentation: Official ‘Event 201’ website, including participants, photos and videos

The ‘Event 201′ scenario as outlined on the exercise website:

Event 201 simulates an outbreak of a novel zoonotic coronavirus transmitted from bats to pigs to people that eventually becomes efficiently transmissible from person to person, leading to a severe pandemic. The pathogen and the disease it causes are modeled largely on SARS, but it is more transmissible in the community setting by people with mild symptoms.

The disease starts in pig farms in Brazil, quietly and slowly at first, but then it starts to spread more rapidly in healthcare settings. When it starts to spread efficiently from person to person in the low-income, densely packed neighborhoods of some of the megacities in South America, the epidemic explodes. It is first exported by air travel to Portugal, the United States, and China and then to many other countries. Although at first some countries are able to control it, it continues to spread and be reintroduced, and eventually no country can maintain control.

There is no possibility of a vaccine being available in the first year. There is a fictional antiviral drug that can help the sick but not significantly limit spread of the disease.

Since the whole human population is susceptible, during the initial months of the pandemic, the cumulative number of cases increases exponentially, doubling every week. And as the cases and deaths accumulate, the economic and societal consequences become increasingly severe.

The scenario ends at the 18-month point, with 65 million deaths. The pandemic is beginning to slow due to the decreasing number of susceptible people. The pandemic will continue at some rate until there is an effective vaccine or until 80-90 % of the global population has been exposed. From that point on, it is likely to be an endemic childhood disease.

German journalist Paul Schreyer has published a book about these exercises and their relevance for the current pandemic (“Chronik einer angekündigten Krise – Wie ein Virus die Welt verändern konnte” [“Chronicle of an announced crisis – How a virus could change the world”], Westend: Frankfurt/Main 2020, ISBN 9783864893162), and there is a lecture about this topic on Youtube (as well the book as the lecture are in German).

In an interview Schreyer distances himself from conspiracy theories and emphasizes that

[…] all of this does not assume any planning or deliberate induction of the pandemic. The process can also be explained harmlessly: the institutions involved were simply “drilled” for such an outbreak. […] The WHO and many other authorities only implemented procedures that had been rehearsed a dozen times and followed rehearsed protocols. Seen in this way, it does not have to have been planned. […] however, what can be stated is that it is precisely this automated behavior that leads us all deeper and deeper into crisis.

I think this is a valid point. However, the fact that prophylaxis and treatments for COVID-19 are suppressed in so many countries might indicate that even an ‘automated behavior’ can have horrible and deadly results.

  • Sun, Jan 03, 2021 - 09:47am



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    Pandemic planning exercises 2001-2019: Dark Winter – Lock Step – Event 201

Addendum about the MARS scenario from the 5C Health Emergency Simulation Exercise (2017)

  • Date: 19 and 20 May 2017, Berlin
  • Organization/sponsoring: Federal Ministry of Health, Germany; Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH; Robert Koch Institute (RKI); World Health Organization (WHO), World Bank
  • Participants: G20 health ministers
  • Ressources: G20 Emergency Simulation Exercise

The 5C Health Emergency Simulation Exercise is a tabletop exercise. A ‘tabletop exercise’ (TTX) is an exercise that uses a progressive simulated scenario, together with series of scripted injects, to make participants consider the impact of a potential health emergency on existing plans, procedures and capacities. A TTX simulates an emergency situation in an informal, stress-free environment (WHO Exercise Manual, 2017). The name ‘5C Health Emergency Simulation Exercise’ refers to the five C-topics around which the exercise revolves: communication, collaboration, contributions, coordination and compliance.

The 5C Health Emergency Simulation Exercise is based on a fictitious scenario of an unfolding epidemic […] called MARS (MARS = Mountain Associated Respiratory Syndrome).

Fact sheet on the Mountain Associated Respiratory Syndrome (MARS) virus as outlined in the 5C Health Emergency Simulation Exercise Package (the following bullet list is a direct quote):

  • Transmission: The virus is transmitted person-to-person via droplets or contaminated surfaces. Those infected develop symptoms approximately four days (with a range of two to ten days) after initial exposure.
  • Clinical course: Symptoms include shortness of breath, fever and a dry cough. Approximately 20% to 30% of patients require intensive care and 14% depend on mechanical ventilation. The case fatality rate is around 10%.
  • Control measures: No specific therapy or vaccine is available; management relies on symptomatic support. Outbreaks are mitigated by effective case detection, the implementation of strict hygiene practices including patient isolation, and contact tracing.
  • Sun, Jan 10, 2021 - 10:00am



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    Pandemic planning exercises 2001-2019: Dark Winter – Lock Step – Event 201

Excellent summary!

Don’t forget the SPARS PANDEMIC planned for 2025, by the usual suspects:

The Spars Pandemic 2025 to 2028 Simulated at the Johns Hopkins University in 2017

You’ll have to remove the underscores because PeakProsperity software continues to censor certain links, as if it was controlled by Youtube/Google.

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