Thursday, March 27, 2008

Ft. Monroe DICE, Pandemic Drills, + News

Exercise tests communication in event of domestic crisis

HAMPTON -- This week at Fort Monroe, 150 participants from 32 federal, state and local agencies are practicing for the next big domestic crisis.
The DICE, short for Department of Defense Interoperability Communications Exercise, is designed to test new software and other communications systems in a realistic tactical setting. Basically, it will see if first responders and various layers of government can talk to each other in a time crunch.
“Let’s make sure now when we’re not responding to an incident that we can communicate with each other, which means we can all do our jobs better and help people out,” said Captain Casey Collins (USN), Joint Task Force Civil Support Chief of Staff.
It could be a terrorist attack like 9-11. It could be a natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina. Curt Shaffer, Assistant to the Hampton City Manager, believes vital lessons were learned from both catastrophes.
“Our capabilities are vastly improved, but we have a long way to go,” he said.
The DICE is being staged by the Fort Monroe-based Joint Task Force Civil Support.
The group falls under United States Northern Command, and was created in the wake of 9-11 to protect the United States homeland and support civil authorities during domestic emergencies.
Northcom’s Commander, Air Force General Victor Renuart, says the nation’s communications systems are “light years” ahead of where they were a few years ago. He says the country is safer, yet challenges remain.
“We have to find a way to integrate local responders with state responders with federal responders,” said Renuart.
While training like the DICE is important, Joint Task Force Civil Support also responds to real-world situations; most recently sending a planning team with expertise in chemical, biological, nuclear and high-yield explosives to last fall’s massive southern California wildfires.

Exercise to test 'dirty bomb' response (Toronto CA)

A staged exercise will be held on Saturday to test the ability of the Toronto area emergency system to deal with a fictional dirty bomb explosion.
The simulation, from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., will involve both the Ajax-Pickering Hospital and Scarborough Centenary Hospital east of Toronto.
The goal is to see how health care professionals manage a large patient load resulting from a dirty bomb explosion on Highway 401.
The fictional scenario will involve crash victims and hundreds of people who panic when they hear that a van crashed while carrying a crude bomb that created a plume of radioactive dust.
Organizers will watch to see how hospital staff deal with a large influx of people looking to be checked for radiation exposure, among other issues.
The "actors" for the exercise will primarily be students from Centennial College, George Brown College, The Michener Institute, the University of Toronto and Ryerson University.

Public Health conducts epidemic drill (WI)
SUMMIT PHOTO BY BOB FENSKE Volunteers dispense "medication" during a drill conducted by the Winnebago County Public Health Department in Forest City Thursday.

FOREST CITY - The streets near the Forest City Senior Citizen Center were filled with vehicles and pedestrians Thursday afternoon as residents tried to secure medication needed to combat a serious epidemic. Yes, IT WAS JUST a drill, but it was an important one."You hope you never have to have the real thing," said Winnebago County Public Health Director Jayne Shaffer, whose agency ran the drill, "but there's nothing more important than being prepared."The fact that the drill was held on a blustery day when snowflakes fell added authenticity to the drill that saw scores of volunteers dispense "medication" to hundreds of Forest City residents."We're not going to be able to pick the weather if the real thing happens," Shaffer said, "so we decided to go ahead with it."

Local exercise addresses mass-distribution of medicines (AK)

Ketchikan, Alaska - In cooperation with the State of Alaska Division of Public Health, public officials from Ketchikan and Southeast Alaska communities attended a "Strategic National Stockpile" tabletop exercise in Ketchikan on March 25th.
The purpose of the exercise was to discuss the receiving of pharmaceuticals and supplies should there be a need for mass-distribution of medicines in the event of pandemic influenza, a public health emergency, or other health related event where mass-distribution of pharmaceuticals would be necessary

Virtual Worlds Help Public Safety Officials Practice for Real-Life Threats

"The aim of the exercise was to see if the state could constantly train people in setting up emergency clinics," explained principal investigator Dr. Peter Yellowlees, a professor of psychiatry at UC-Davis, whose research interests include the use of virtual reality for health education on the Internet. "One big advantage is that they could do this training 24/7 from wherever they are, and you don't have to recruit patient volunteers."
Yellowlees isn't alone in seeing the potential of using virtual reality simulation to train first responders, medical personnel and emergency management officials. Across the country, researchers are exploring how simulations can augment training efforts. Much of the impetus is coming from the growing use of simulation in medical training. Most medical schools are incorporating simulation in their curricula and measuring its effectiveness.
Another driving force is the U.S. Department of Defense, which for years has been funding research about computer simulation for war fighting and medical purposes. Research to support military operations done by organizations such as the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center is being customized for homeland security exercises"
Preparing for a Plane Crash: Disaster Drill at Tucson International Airport

While authorities cannot always predict a terrorist attack; it's something they can't prepare for enough. On Wednesday emergency responders from all over Tucson gathered at Tucson International Airport for a mock plane crash that involved at least 150 participants. FBI agents, police, firefighters, medical technicians and others worked together to react to the near real 5 hour disaster drill.
Bodies were scattered all over the desert landscape along with debris from the plane. Volunteer victims participated by playing dead or faking serious injuries that were made to look real with make-up. First responders had to take care of the wounded victims and decide who would be sent to University Physician's Hospital, which also participated in the drill

Exercise in Audubon Park to include mock explosion (LA)

Introducing Iarpa! It's Like Darpa, But for Spies.

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