I recently had the honor of presenting a plenary session for the 2020 annual conference of the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM).

This year, the conference was held virtually using a system that allowed speakers to also submit video presentations.

Those of you that are familiar with DisasterDoc may already know about our “Blue Skies Studio” located near Atlanta since 2017. There, we create many of our products for health marketing, adult learning and professional education.

The Virtual IAEM Conference would be a great opportunity to offer conference participants  a modern, multi-media learning experience that went beyond the traditional keynote speaker with a PowerPoint app!

Since the conference would no longer be held in its original picturesque location of Long Beach, CA, we decided to make the best of the situation (as many you are during these days of COVID). So…we went with it.

Our 30-minute-long session included all five of the following learning activities:

  1. a lecture about a century of lessons learned regarding pandemic preparedness and response measures
  2. a video story about a pandemic scenario
  3. a min-tabletop exercise
  4. a live online survey of exercise attendees in real-time
  5. a blog website where they can learn how well they performed in the “exercise” (pronounced “leh-sn” )  😉 

Objective:   To measure the ability of emergency managers to make evidence-based decisions regarding pandemic response .


  • All attendees of the 2020 IAEM were invited to attend the online session.
    • At session midpoint, there were 550 attendees.
  • All respondents were asked four questions regarding pandemic response related to 2019 recommendations originating from a group of experts convened by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM).
  • Critical decisions points of the scenario included the following four questions:
    1. How will you detect the disease?
    2. When will you start distribution of antiviral medications?
    3. Will you mandate non-pharmaceutical interventions, NPIs (e.g. social distancing, masks, tiered closings)?
    4. When will you start vaccination?
  • Responses were scored according to percentage of answers correct (according to the 2019 NASEM guidance)



  • 299 (54%) of the 550 live conference attendees completed the entire 4-question online survey.
  • The average score was 84% (+/- 22%SD)
  • 169 (57%) of the 299 respondents earned a perfect score of 100%.
  • 81 (27%) of the 299 respondents missed one of the four questions.
  • 269 (90% +/- 30%) of 299 respondents indicated that they would choose to mandate NPIs



  • Emergency managers attending the 2020 IAEM conference demonstrated the ability to make evidence-based decisions regarding pandemic responses.

Now…would the politicians please…BACK OFF?


Please leave your comments below and check out the related DisasterDoc blog: “The Duty to Protect”.

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