Public Health England Logo From 1 April 2013 the Health Protection Agency became part of Public Health England

Project Partners

Health Protection Agency (HPA)

The UK Health Protection Agency's Emergency Response Department (HPA ERD) is the project coordinator. ERD works to improve the UK's emergency preparedness and response capability, developing infrastructure for surveillance and early recognition of events. The HPA works with the National Health Service, local authorities and the emergency services, identifying and strengthening countermeasures. Exercises to test response capacity to health emergencies are conducted across the country with national and local partners, further improving emergency planning and preparedness in the UK. On-going work within ERD also includes the psychosocial aspects of emergency management, including public responses to CBRN incidents.

King's College London

King’s College London is one of the top 25 universities in the world (Times Higher 2007) and the fourth oldest in England. A research-led university based in the heart of London, King’s has 19,700 students from more than 140 countries, and 5,400 employees. King’s has an outstanding reputation for providing world-class teaching and cutting-edge research. King’s has a particularly distinguished reputation in the humanities, law, social sciences, the health sciences, natural sciences and engineering, and has played a major role in many of the advances that have shaped modern life, such as the discovery of the structure of DNA. It is the largest centre for the education of healthcare professionals in Europe and is home to five Medical Research Council Centres - more than any other university.


DIALOGIK is a non-profit institute for communication and cooperation research based in Stuttgart. The close connection to the Institute for Social Sciences at the University of Stuttgart ensures that the latest developments in advanced methods and techniques of empirical social research are available for research. Furthermore, DIALOGIK can profit from the broad array of participative procedures that were developed by the meanwhile dissolved Center of Technology Assessment, which was directed by DIALOGIK managing director and co-owner Ortwin Renn. Additionally, in cooperation with other partners DIALOGIK has special expertise in designing and managing interdisciplinary research.


The PIRATE project used two incident scenarios to elicit responses from focus group and survey participants. These scenarios are described below, along with schematics of the smallpox scenario timeline.

Radiological Exposure Device (RED) Scenario

The first scenario inject was designed to 'set the scene' for the participants, and described the discovery of radiological materials during a police raid on a UK (or German) location. The article was designed to be representative of a story in the week before the start of the incident described in the later injects, and served to alert participants to the possibility of a threat involving an RED.

The first broadcast media inject (Stage 2) communicated the initial discovery of an unidentified device taped to the bottom of a table on a long distance train travelling between two major cities. Suspicions were immediately raised that this might be a bomb, leading to an evacuation of the train and the station. In the news clip, a reporter at the scene calls back to the news room to describe the situation and also speaks to an evacuated train passenger who says that she heard a responder say it was not a bomb and that the radiation team needed to be called in.

The RED Stage 3 inject depicted a broadcast transmitted on the evening of the same day as the Stage 2 inject. The ongoing incident was described and it was officially confirmed that it was a radiological device which had been on the train for several days. The news presenter interviewed a doctor who explained the signs and symptoms of radiation sickness and encouraged anyone concerned about exposure to go to their nearest monitoring facility or call an NHS Direct hotline that had been set up.

At the fourth stage of the RED scenario, participants were shown the third and final news broadcast inject. This inject depicted a broadcast approximately 3 weeks after the Stage 3 inject. Clean up operations were described and the station reopened to the public, but an independent scientist raised concerns that the affected train could have travelled on other journeys while it was contaminated. The independent scientist also suggests that other trains could have similar devices on board, and that the possible effects of radiation were more severe and longer lasting than the government had led people to believe.

Smallpox Scenario

The first inject was designed to 'set the scene' for the participants, and described a terrorist camp which was thought to have had access to smallpox. In the context of the scenario, this article was designed to appear approximately one week prior to the start of the incident described in the later three broadcast media injects. The newspaper article alerted the participants to the possibility of a smallpox threat.

Stage 2 of the scenario was designed to communicate the early stages of a smallpox outbreak in a major city. Seven illegal immigrants had been discovered at an abandoned lorry. Three of these men were taken to hospital in critical condition with some, as yet unknown, disease. The remaining four men managed to evade police capture and were reported to be on the run.

The third stage inject depicted a broadcast approximately 1 week after the first inject. At this stage in the scenario the disease had been formally identified as smallpox and had killed 8 people. Police had also voiced suspicions that the men involved were members of a terrorist organisation and had deliberately infected themselves in order to spread the disease.

At stage 3b of the smallpox scenario, participants were shown an inject depicting a news broadcast approximately 1 week after the broadcast inject at Stage 3. At this point in the scenario concern was being voiced by an independent scientist who was suggesting that the smallpox vaccine is more dangerous than the public had been led to believe.

At the fourth and final stage of the smallpox scenario, participants were given another newspaper article inject to read. Set approximately two and a half months after the broadcast inject at Stage 3b, the incident had peaked and efforts were focused on monitoring and treating possible secondary cases. There was a focus on life beginning to return to normal after a significant drop in the number of new cases.