Probably the best and most important thing the planners did with CONPLAN 8888-11 was to make it available on Intellipedia so both the American public and, more important, the emergency management community, could utilize the best examples of a CONPLAN template they could possibly find – fictional, or not.
As the authors of the pretend counter-zombie plan noted, it’s funny and entertaining. Even though a sixth grader could probably grasp the underlying metaphor for “terrorist” and a novel “pathogenic threat,” the authors nevertheless removed real fear from the equation and (probably without the less-sophisticated reader understanding it) walked those who “consume” such plans through the logical process of threat characterization and the requirements associated with preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery against new, unforeseen and otherwise very fearful threats.
The plan also very clearly demonstrated that the comingled efforts of planning and response are multi-, or even hyper-dimensional, where no single silo of a critical infrastructure sector – or, in the case of this particular scenario, society itself – could work in a vacuum and possibly hope to achieve success. I’ve long used the analogy of the iconic “Star Trek” character Spock’s three-dimensional chess game to describe the complexities of planning and response, i.e., when one piece is moved on one layer or dimension of the game, it has a cause-and-effect impact on another that must be accommodated.
The military has understood this almost intuitively for as long as they have done operational planning, but it is a concept that has eluded us in the domestic environment. By using a walking dead scenario, the authors universalized the asymmetrical threat that’s now endemic to our environment in the post-9/11 era. While the scenario is ludicrous, the reader nevertheless is left with a better grasp of the notion of a threat that could affect us all – and that only by beginning to plan (at the personal level, at the home level, at the community level, etc.) can we hope to achieve resilience against any kind of new, fantastical scenarios.
Read the complete report in the April 2016 issue of Homeland Security Today.