SAIC (The Science Applications International Corporation), through a contract from the National Guard Bureau, has just completed the first civilian wargame aimed at those decision makers. The Automated Exercise and Assessment System (AEAS) is a constructive simulation that will be distributed free of charge to every county in the country. For the first time ever, the countrys emergency response community will have a tool capable of sophisticated training.
Operational Concept- AEAS is designed for use by jurisdictions from the municipality, and county, to the state level operations. Exercises can be held in a single room or split between rooms to reflect the different locations of the participants in the exercise. Each participant works from a PC that is networked with the other role players. The network can be an existing network or one set up specifically for the exercise. The PC provides scenario information and message traffic. In the absence of a specific role player, AEAS can simulate that role during the exercise. The participants use the PC to communicate with the other role players as well as the simulated emergency response units. All actions are recorded for an After Action Review once the exercise is completed.
Pre-Exercise- Given the vast difference in the resources and capabilities through out the civilian emergency response community the simulation had to be capable of being customized to each community. For example, a fire engine in one community might carry 500 gallons of water, while in another community it might not have an onboard water supply. To begin using the simulation the local jurisdiction builds its community response capabilities into the system. They enter their various types of fire, police, and emergency medical services units, assigning them the capabilities each possesses. With each of the capabilities assigned to a unit come its resources needs and the commands that can be given that unit. For example, a fire engine that is Advanced Life Support capable can be assigned to provide paramedic level care to patients. It also will need to be re-supplied as it treats patients with IV fluids and specific types of drugs. This same unit could be assigned to fight fire or provide search and rescue at an incident.
Once the initial survey is completed each of the communitys emergency response units will have a set of capabilities and resources that is a reasonable reflection of their existing resources. Next, the community will choose between three different geographic/demographic models based on real GIS information. They can choose from urban setting, a suburban setting or a rural county. Once they have chosen a geographic/demographic model that most closely reflects their community they then place their resources in this community.
Now that a representative community has been constructed, the command and control structure of that community must be created. There is no national standard for how emergency response agencies are organized. In one community the hazardous materials unit and operations might be under the control of the law enforcement agency, in another it might be the fire department. So the next step is to organize the response agencies within the community according their specific roles and responsibilities.
There are 42 different functional areas that could be needed during a response to a Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) incident, everything from animal control to hazardous materials. The community would then assign these functional areas to the appropriate agency in their community. For example in many communities the fire department handles not only firefighting operations but it also handles emergency medical services and hazardous materials. If this were true for the community about to use AEAS, it would assign these functional areas to the fire department. In this way a communitys emergency response agencies will have the resources and capabilities they normally have to respond to the incident.
Finally, the community sets up the communication scheme that reflects their communitys communication capabilities. Communication between response agencies varies widely. To name just one of the many variations possible, some law enforcement agencies can communicate directly with fire departments in their community while others cannot, So once the communication scheme is established in the simulation, and only those agencies that can directly communicate with one another will be able to in the simulation. This ability to monitor and communicate directly with units in the simulation is an essential one to simulate, since every after action report on major incidents in the civilian site communications as one of the most important problems encountered.
Exercise- The controller, using another PC on the network, then chooses a scenario for the exercise of the day. There are twelve scenarios to choose from:
Conventional explosion at a rock concert.
Anthrax Hoax in a building
Dirty Bomb- a car bomb explosion at a federal building
Sarin release at an outdoor gathering
Deliberate derailment of a hazardous materials train
Foot and Mouth outbreak
Conventional truck bomb explosion at a federal building
Dirty Bomb- truck bomb at an outdoor event
Anthrax line source release incident
Anthrax building release at a federal building
Nuclear detonation in a neighboring community
The scenarios are divided into two type, there are Scene Centric and Emergency Operations Center (EOC) centric. The Scene Centric scenarios are scenarios that have a physical scene. The train derailment or the conventional explosion at a federal building are two examples. In these scenarios there are two separate command centers that must coordinate their actions and decision making. At the scene of the event, is the Incident Commander and the other operational commanders, i.e. fire, law enforcement, hazardous materials etc., at their command post. They have the responsibility for directing and controlling emergency response crews and resources.
The other command center is at the EOC. The EOC is responsible for supporting the on scene command. In addition, the EOC will coordinate other activities created by the incident, i.e. large scale evacuations and other protect measures. The participants can communicate through the software using radio traffic between the scene and the EOC. But in the testing of the software using the jurisdictions normal communications radio, cell phones and land lines worked much better.
In the EOC centric scenarios there is no specific identifiable scene instead the incident is spread throughout the community. All of the bio-terrorism scenarios fit into this category. The Incident Commander will be in the EOC and use the resources within the EOC to mange the incident. For example, in the smallpox scenario the decisions about quarantine, vaccination, and travel restrictions are made and the communitys emergency resources needed to support these decisions are coordinated from the EOC.
The scenarios range in duration from half an hour up to four hours but the time frame is entirely up to the controller and how he or she decides to manage the exercise. The controller can jump ahead through a series of situational events or slow down the pace by controlling the time within the exercise, a minute in the exercise can take more or less that a real minute. These controls give the trainer an opportunity to control the tempo of the exercise and thereby the experience of the participants.
After Action Review- During the exercise the simulation tracks every decision by each participant and compares it to a set of Tasks, Conditions and Standards for each role. These Tasks, Conditions and Standards are tied to situational events, time frames and triggering actions in the scenarios. At the end of the exercise each role receives a red, yellow or green rating for each of their decisions. A green indicates the participant completed the task within the established time frame and after the correct trigger. A yellow is given if that player was prompted before he/she took that action. In the simulation, the units responding to the scene will prompt the players with messages that should remind them to take the needed action. For example, one of the expected actions is to establish a staging area for incoming units. If the player does not establish that staging are then an incoming unit will ask where the staging are has been set up. A red is given to the player is given to the player if that player fails to take an expected action even with prompting.
While players are given red, yellow and green grades on specific tasks an overall grade is not given. Instead, the grades can be used to discuss the expected actions versus the players actions. This can be done using the after action capability that ties each expected action to the ground truth at the time of the decision. This ground truth shows a map with unit locations, pertinent radio traffic, and the expected action. Given the fact that many of the incidents in the simulation have never occurred, it is not always clear what specific actions should be taken at every juncture, so the AAR is used to better understand the incident and the type of actions that should be taken and the consequences of those decisions.
Summary- AEAS hopefully, is the first step in the development of a suite of simulations that can be used to better prepare the civilian emergency response community. In reading a recent account of the Iraq war, I read where one of the commanders in the 3rd Infantry Division said, this was not the first time he had fought this battle but the 8th. He had wargamed the battle seven times before he actually gave his first order. The object of the civilian wargames should be to someday hear the same quote from an emergency manager in a community after a disaster. --Roger Huder CEM (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The civilian emergency response community does a good job of training the first responders to an incident. The men and women who ride the trucks each day are continually trained in their physical and decision making skills. This is easily accomplished through normal training methods. What the civilian sector has needed for decades is a way to train the decision makers of a community.