DAERA in UK simulation exercise to test Foot and Mouth Disease readiness

Date published: 20 April 2018

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs has joined its counterpart departments in England, Scotland and Wales and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) in a national Foot and Mouth Disease simulation exercise called Exercise Blackthorn.


The aim of the Exercise Blackthorn is to test Government’s current contingency plans for a national outbreak of the disease. The exercise will establish the current state of readiness whilst identifying issues and improvements in policies, plans, instructions, structures and recovery procedures employed in managing an outbreak.

The exercise will simulate a medium-to-large scale outbreak that has spread from England to Wales, Scotland and on to Northern Ireland.

A real-time exercise will be conducted on 25 and 26 April 2018, before concluding in a final table-top exercise, where the simulated outbreak will be investigated to the point of disease eradication and recovery aspects considered.

Northern Ireland’s Chief Veterinary Officer Robert Huey said: “Having robust and effective contingency plans are crucial to containing and managing the spread of an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease. Therefore, regularly reviewing them and identifying any issues that may arise is vitally important when we have to respond to a disease outbreak in reality. 

“A national exercise, such as Exercise Blackthorn, provides the opportunity to both learn and share good practice with our fellow-administrations in the UK, in order to improve our response and effectiveness.”

The EU Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Directive 2003/85/EC requires Member States to exercise their contingency plans twice within a five-year period or during the five years period after the outbreak of a major epizootic disease has been effectively controlled and eradicated.

An exercise evaluation report will be published in autumn 2018.

Notes to editors: 

  1. Two table-top exercises took place on 8 February and 8 March. These simulated the meetings that take place at suspicion and at the very early stages of a Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak. The outputs from these table-tops will be taken forward into the live-play exercise. A third table-top, planned for 7 June, will test the recovery procedures during the latter stages of an outbreak.
  2. The live exercise is taking place over two days on the 25th and 26th April 2018. Farmers and landowners will not be taking part in the exercise, with in
  3. Download the DAERA Foot and Mouth Control Strategy.
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  5. All media queries should be directed to the DAERA Press Office on 028 9052 4619 or via email. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 07623 974 383 and your call will be returned.

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