This activity is part of the Menacing Microbes unit.

Unit Driving Question: How does a community get ready for an outbreak?

Lesson Driving Question: How can we plan to stay healthy in the future?

1. Analyze a real-world example of an action plan to learn about the people involved in a response to an outbreak in a dense urban area.

  • Set the purpose for this step by telling students that you are going to share with them real-world examples of community action plans for disease outbreaks. Many places around the world have action plans for responses to infectious diseases. Some of these plans are for specific diseases, some are designed to respond to outbreaks in a more general way. The example documents for this lesson are from more general responses to disease outbreaks.
  • Share the San Francisco Infectious Disease Emergency Response chart and the San Francisco Understanding the Infectious Disease Emergency Response Structure table with project groups.
      • Explain to students that they will not need to include this level of detail in their action plans, but this information is intended to give them a sense of all of the different kinds of people accounted for in an action plan developed for a large city in the United States.
      • Students will use this information to think about what kinds of teams of people they might want to include in their action plans.
  • Model for students how to use these documents in order to identify appropriate teams involved in a response plan. 
      • Say: To locate the source of the disease and monitor how it is spreading, I will need to use the Epidemiology and Surveillance Branch (pink).
      • Show students where this team is on the table. Explain that these are the people who will investigate the source of the outbreak and patterns of how it is spreading. Read several of the titles of people on the team and their corresponding roles.
      • Say: If one response to my disease is quarantine, I will want to include the Disease Containment and Implementation Branch (grey).
      • Show students where this team is on the table. Explain that these are the people who will coordinate with the community to implement a quarantine. Read several of the titles of people on the team and their corresponding roles.
  • In their project groups, have students review the Infectious Disease Emergency Response chart and the Understanding the Infectious Disease Emergency Response Structure table of people included in the Infectious Disease Emergency Response for San Francisco.
      • To guide student groups’ reading through these documents, have each group choose one proactive and one reactive response to think about who would be involved from this flow chart following your modeling examples. Each group should select different response measures to analyze.
  • After reading, have student groups share with the class what each response measure is, what teams are responsible, and what each team would do.
  • Record this information on the board for the whole class to use as a resource. 


2. Analyze a real-world example of an action plan to learn about the steps included for a large urban area.

Inform students that their action plan will include a flow chart similar to the one in Figure 1 of the Regional Acute Infectious Disease Response Plan developed for King and Pierce Counties in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. The flow chart they create will have a corresponding written component that attends to the following categories (also in the sample Action Plan on pages 7-17):

  • Activating the Plan
  • Notification and Warning
  • Coordination
  • Lab Testing
  • Waste Management (if applicable)
  • Mortuary Services (if applicable)
  • Monitoring, Isolation, and/or Quarantine
  • Demobilization

Students do not need to read these sections of the example in detail but can refer to them if they need help understanding or addressing the category.


3. Write an action plan to prepare for a disease outbreak.

In their project groups, have students use their Action Plan Research worksheet and all other resources from the Menacing Microbes unit to complete the Action Plan for Response to Outbreak of Infectious Disease for their particular disease. Resources that students should reference from previous activities are listed on the Action Plan Resource List.


Collect students’ action plans and use the Action Plan Scoring Rubric to assess students’ understanding of the content related to their focal diseases. Students will need their action plans for the next activity when they apply their plan to specific scenarios. If you are unable to return these to students in time for their use in the next activity, consider collecting after completing the next activity, “Mobilizing an Action Plan for an Outbreak.”

Subjects & Disciplines

  • Social Studies
    • Civics

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Create an action plan for community emergency response to an outbreak of their focal disease.

Teaching Approach

  • Project-based learning

Teaching Methods

  • Cooperative learning
  • Discussions
  • Information organization
  • Modeling
  • Reading
  • Writing

Skills Summary

This activity targets the following skills:

Connections to National Standards, Principles, and Practices

Energy Literacy Essential Principles and Fundamental Concepts

  • D2.Civ.10.6-8:  Explain the relevance of personal interests and perspectives, civic virtues, and democratic principles when people address issues and problems in government and civil society.

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.7:  Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.
  • Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies 6-12:  Key Ideas and Details, RH.6-8.2
  • WHST.6-8.2.A:  Introduce a topic clearly, previewing what is to follow; organize ideas, concepts, and information into broader categories as appropriate to achieving purpose; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., charts, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension. 
  • WHST.6-8.2.B:  Develop the topic with relevant, well-chosen facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples.
  • WHST.6-8.4:  Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

The College, Career & Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards

  • D2.Civ.12.6-8:  Assess specific rules and laws (both actual and proposed) as means of addressing public problems. 
  • D2.Civ.2.6-8:  Explain specific roles played by citizens (such as voters, jurors, taxpayers, members of the armed forces, petitioners, protesters, and office-holders).
  • D2.Civ.6.6-8:  Describe the roles of political, civil, and economic organization in shaping people's lives.

What You’ll Need

Required Technology

  • Internet Access: Optional
  • Tech Setup: 1 computer per classroom, 1 computer per pair, Projector

Physical Space

  • Classroom


  • Heterogeneous grouping
  • Homogeneous grouping
  • Small-group instruction
  • Small-group learning
  • Small-group work

Background Information

Just as people plan ahead for inevitable emergencies with fire escape plans and earthquake preparedness plans, having plans to respond to outbreaks of infectious microbial diseases is essential for us to stay healthy. For the development of large-scale responses to emergencies, there are organizations dedicated to the task of creating action plans. The creators of these plans assess all of the available resources in a given area that would be used in a response to an emergency situation. When developing plans for disease outbreak, they consider things such as the health care facilities, communication networks, and leadership that would be most effective in mobilizing a plan effectively. They develop organizational flow charts, roles and responsibilities, and action steps needed for the containment and prevention of diseases.



become active or operative.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

agency, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, whose mission is "to create the expertise, information, and tools that people and communities need to protect their health through health promotion, prevention of disease, injury and disability, and preparedness for new health threats."


process of organizing people or groups so that they work together well.


break up the organization of or disband.


harmful condition of a body part or organ.

lab testing

procedure used to identify or characterize something, conducted under controlled scientific conditions in a lab (also called Laboratory).


watch, keep track of, or check.

mortuary services

service providing a space in which dead bodies are kept, for hygienic storage or for examination, until burial or cremation.


action of notifying someone or something.


sudden occurrence or rapid increase.


having to do with country life, or areas with few residents.


having to do with city life.


notice or bulletin that alerts to a hazard.

waste management

collection, disposal, or recycling of materials that people have discarded.

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