Homeland Security Drills Adopt Military-Style Simulations

By Baxley, Carl R.; Seton, Julie A. | National Defense, November 2003 | Go to article overview
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Homeland Security Drills Adopt Military-Style Simulations

Baxley, Carl R., Seton, Julie A., National Defense

Commanders and supervisors of Baltimore's emergency response agencies, participating in a homeland security exercise, tested a new computer-based simulation system designed to make training more realistic.

The exercise, conducted by the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Analysis Center last year, used the Emergency Preparedness Incident Command Simulation, a computer-based, event-driven simulation designed to stimulate emergency response commanders to make decisions, allocate resources and seek additional help as necessary. The EPiCS system also records the consequences and activities of decisions made at command levels for later review.

While the on-scene personnel and resources were represented in the computer simulation, the Baltimore commanders worked from their normally assigned workspaces in the mobile command post and emergency operations center. Participants from Baltimore City Police, Fire, Health and Public Works departments stayed in contact with their own personnel over normal communications channels. Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley held a mock press conference.

Participants said that an EPiCS exercise is better than a tabletop exercise because it is not scripted, it runs in real-time, and it requires the use of actual communication media that create a more realistic environment.

EPiCS was developed through a partnership between the Army TRADOC Analysis Center at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., and the National Institute of Justice's Office of Science and Technology. The intent was to take a military simulation model and adapt it for civilian public safety agencies.

Scenarios played out in EPiCS exercises include terrorist attacks with WMD chemical and radiological agents, shootings, hostage situations, potential nuclear weapons accidents, and riots. Facilities represented include schools, a metropolitan subway system, a harbor tourist area, a state prison, a federal courthouse, a large international airport and a power plant.

Survey results from 101 respondents show that interagency interaction and communication are the two most important aspects of an EPiCS exercise.

In Baltimore, the general objectives were to evaluate the Emergency Operations Center, the interaction between agencies and individual agency response.

Results of the exercise indicated a need to modify Baltimore's EOC and pointed to strengths and weaknesses in the response plan and in the communication links that are common to most metropolitan areas.

Additions to the system include the capabilities to represent geographical features realistically. It can depict up to five interior floors in buildings, tunnels, water, fire, material dispersion (chemical, radiological and nuclear), people in various conditions (unharmed and mobile, damaged and mobile, damaged and immobile, and dead), and the mounting of people on and off vehicles.

The director of the Federal Protective Service's National Capital region, Joseph Trindal, was first exposed to the EPiCS system in Alexandria, Va. His first experience with EPiCS was a June 2002 simulation of a terrorist attack on the Federal Courthouse in Alexandria, Va.

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Homeland Security Drills Adopt Military-Style Simulations


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