EIIP Virtual Forum Presentation – April 23, 2003

The Automated Exercise and Assessment System

Daniel Donahue
Special Assistant to the Chief, National Guard Bureau

Avagene Moore, CEM
Moderator, EIIP Coordinator

The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. A raw, unedited transcript is available upon request to [email protected]

[Welcome / Introduction]

Welcome to the EIIP Virtual Forum! On behalf of Amy Sebring and myself, we are happy to see everyone here today.

Our session today is an overview of the Automated Exercise and Assessment System (AEAS). I was very fortunate to see the AEAS demonstrated at the IAEM Annual Conference in Columbus Ohio last fall. I decided then that the AEAS would make a great session for the Virtual Forum. We are fortunate that our speaker today is the gentleman who was the visionary behind this interactive training system.

Daniel Donohue serves as the Chief, Public Affairs and Community Support Office, National Guard Bureau. Concurrently, he serves as the Special Assistant to the Chief, National Guard Bureau. He joined the National Guard Bureau in February 1979 and served as Chief, Command Information, Chief, Chief, Policy and Plans, and Chief, Media Relations, Chief, Public, Legislative & Intergovernmental Affairs prior to his appointment as Chief, Public Affairs in April 1983.

Among the major issue areas for which he is responsible are Media Relations, Environmental Public Affairs, Community Relations, Command Information, Risk and Crisis Communications and Historical Services and the WMD "Automated Exercise and Assessment System." Our speaker's accomplishments include the creation of the ChalleNGe Youth Program - the most successful at risk youth program in the country, the first formal environmental public affairs program/office in the federal government, and the first risk/crisis communication program for Weapons of Mass destruction incidents and other catastrophic disasters.

He authored the first comprehensive report to Congress on the Nation's preparedness for a WMD event; and most recently created and directed the development of the National Guard Bureau's WMD Automated Exercise and Assessment System.

The EIIP Virtual Forum is very pleased to host this session today. It is my pleasure to welcome Dan Donohue to the EIIP Virtual Forum! Dan, I now turn the floor to you.


Dan Donohue: Thank you for this opportunity to talk about the AEAS project. It is good to see everyone here today.

I'd like to acknowledge Bob Coullahan who is here with us from SAIC. Bob and his colleagues, Jim Cline and Mike Kerrigan, are the three people upon whom I relied to help make AEAS a reality.

Following a 1999 Congressionally directed report of the Nations ability to respond to a major WMD incident, the National Guard Bureau (NGB), at the direction of Congress, initiated a program to develop and field a CD-ROM based "Automated Exercise and Assessment System" specific to Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorist Attacks on the United States.

Our goal in the AEAS project was to develop a standardized, automated WMD exercise model for local responders throughout the nation; and make the model available to over 3500 jurisdictions throughout the nation.

From this original vision, AEAS was designed and developed by a team of emergency responders, emergency management officials, scientists and homeland security experts leveraging existing simulation technology used for training members of the armed forces.

The AEAS has been successfully evaluated in field exercises in Utah, West Virginia, Iowa and Pennsylvania to establish a baseline for training local emergency responders across the country. The project was also demonstrated at the IAEM Annual Conference in Columbus Ohio last fall.

The AEAS program exercises emergency response procedures at the jurisdiction level and it is all done in-house. AEAS allows participants to respond as a team in real-time to simulated emergency scenarios. AEAS exercises rely on realistic WMD scenarios that capture proper interagency coordination, the latest accepted procedures and protocols, and the most complete scientific data.

The scenarios include explosions and the release of radioactive contaminants and biological agents. AEAS supports common terminology, standardized ascendancy, integrated communications, unified command structure, consolidated action plans, designated incident facilities (command post, staging area, etc.), manageable span-of-control, and comprehensive resource management on the Incident Command System (ICS) and supplemented by mutual aid compacts and protocols that accommodate regional and state-level participation.

To guarantee scenario authenticity and realism, and to provide general oversight of the AEAS development process, an Independent Review Board assisted the development team. The Stakeholder Panel and Review Board members represented civil and military emergency response, medical, scientific and follow-on support communities and provided guidance and validation.

The software that drives the simulation creates a realistic training environment without the cost, safety and logistic concerns of live, on-location training involving hundreds of role players, dozens of emergency vehicles and other equipment. AEAS allows the participating community to use its actual resources against an incident in a geo-typical community. Each community can tailor all response resources to match its own.

[Slide 1]

The preparation phase allows a community to develop a complete survey of its equipment. A survey is completed by each agency and is saved for later consolidation. Communities can also set up separate categories for industrial, contract, or other types of mutual aid--in addition to normal mutual pacts.

[Slide 2]

The agency surveys are then consolidated into a community profile giving the jurisdiction and the emergency manager a complete inventory of its response capabilities.

[Slide 3]

Each participant plays one of 41 different roles on PC workstations, including communications, law enforcement, fire department, emergency management, medical facilities, public health, military support, public information, elected officials, donations and volunteer management.

[Slide 4]

AEAS exercises accommodate up to 20 participants in an environment that promotes face-to-face interactions via messages passing through individual computer workstations connected to a local area network (LAN). AEAS captures and records participant actions. Simulated outcomes based on these actions provide the participant with continuous feedback on the status of the incident, allowing them to judge the adequacy of their responses.

At the conclusion of the exercise, AEAS provides a detailed, printable after-action report (AAR). The report contains a diary of all exercise actions and their consequences. The report also compares the participants' actions with an approved standard developed during the emergency responder stakeholder review board vetting process to assist jurisdictions in evaluating and improving their readiness and response actions. Selected information from the AAR becomes part of the standardized national baseline assessment of readiness for NGB and other identified agencies.

Interested emergency response and emergency management officials may request a copy of the CD at https://firstmuster.ngb.army.mil/aeas/.

That concludes my remarks. I am available for questions now.

[Audience Questions & Answers]


Sunnie Baldwin: Is there a role for NGOs such as Red Cross and Salvation Army?

Dan Donohue: Yes, in the EMA and survey areas. Clearly, if they make predictable contributions they would be counted. And, there is the logistics component on scene and at the EOC.


Jennifer Vuitel: Is it free and what type of environmental scenarios does it have?

Dan Donohue: The software is free to any jurisdiction. There are environmental dimensions to the scenarios although there is no "environmental" only scenario.


Robert Eberth: Is there any direct interface between AEAS and the response center’s own C2 displays or consoles?

Dan Donohue: As designed, AEAS is a stand-alone product. It can be used in the EOC system, but runs as a separate program.


Frank Fiedrich: I have a technical question: what kind of simulation standard do you use and how do you simulate the actions realistically?

Dan Donohue: There are several dimensions. First, the scenarios were modeled and validated based on the scientific data. Second, we used all existing standards available in the response communities. Third, where time standards were life impacting and did not exist we had "experts in the field" develop them for us.


Donald Thomas: Could you please speak to the training effort associated with the use of the software as well as the setup needed?

Dan Donohue: Two parts – training first. We are working with Justice to conduct training for 1000 controllers nationwide; that is the person who runs the program. Second, setup is fairly simple. The program runs on a LAN system win NT/2000. The CD comes with user guides for all components and is pretty self-explanatory.


Jeff Phillips: Akin to Robert's question, have there been requests/efforts to convert or use this as an operational tool or Decision Support System?

Dan Donohue: The questions have been raised. We did not have the funding to take it to that level this time around. Honestly, the effort was placed on delivering a usable product with a view to having editions 2, 3, etc.


Rebecca Head: Can I as the Public Health Emergency Preparedness Director order a copy?

Dan Donohue: Rebecca, you can order a copy at the Web site.


Louise Comfort: How do you validate the data collected from the surveys of participants?

Dan Donohue: Louise, the data in the survey is validated at the jurisdiction level. We would expect each agency head to have a handle on his/her inventories and capabilities.


Dorothy Miller: How long does it typically take to complete a simulation exercise considering 20 players?

Dan Donohue: Typically, it will take 4 hours to complete a survey; approximately 2 hours to create a community profile; 2 to 4 hours to conduct player training; four hours to conduct the exercise; and about 2 to 4 hours for the AAR.


Mike Manscen: I had a demonstration from Matt Kraus; the system is terrific. Is there a Web site I can go to for more information or technical help?

Dan Donohue: Yes, it is linked to our Web site at https://firstmuster.ngb.army.mil/aeas/.


Major Dunlap: What is the maintenance support concept for AEAS, in terms of both help desk support and product upgrades (PPSS), such as Decision Support?

Dan Donohue: We are just fielding the system now. We are developing several upgrade models subject to funding. We hope that training will address the training component, but we will have a phone number for help.


Mike Bloxom: Do you have a success story from the field from beta tests thus far?

Dan Donohue: Our most notable success stories are from Story County, Iowa and Weber County in Utah.


Robert Eberth: You mentioned simulated outcomes are fed back based on participants' actions. How do you ensure those outcomes are valid (accurate predictions of what would occur in the real world) in order to preclude the possibility of "negative training"?

Dan Donohue: Robert, all actions taken by players are recorded in sequence and time. The end state is focused on the sequencing and impact of action or inaction. There is no right or wrong answer - only a consequence of the action/inaction.


Laura Lanosa: Are the user guides and/or software available in different languages (i.e., Spanish)?

Dan Donohue: Laura, right now all are in English. We would have no aversion to translations.


Mike Bloxom: Records in sequence and time allow the players to gage their appropriate response AKA decision-making – yes?

Dan Donohue: Mike, yes, consequences are modeled. For instance, if mutual aid is brought through a deadly cloud, it may not make it alive. The consequence of the exposure, based on science, is real in terms of effect.


Lauran Wikle: Is the software based on a chat room format to communicate during the exercise?

Dan Donohue: The software has simulated e-mail and radio traffic generated by the players.


Frank Candiano: Can you discuss applications for potential hospital use in support of WMD events?

Dan Donohue: Frank, the hospital component is not inclusive of patient care in the hospital. What the software does is exercise the systems up to that point. For example, it forces the hospital to make contamination decisions. It forces security issues. It forces inventory issues - respirators etc.


Isabel McCurdy: Is this universal, Dan, would Canadians be able to use it?

Dan Donohue: Isabel, the intellectual and decision process is fairly universal. The protocols followed by jurisdictions are tailored to meet their needs in the exercise setup.


Sunnie Baldwin: Could the exercise be conducted from various remote workstations, such as through a secure sub-community of Disasterhelp.gov for those of us with no LAN and in rural areas?

Dan Donohue: Sunnie, yes it could be, but the purpose is to exercise the ICS/IMG and EOC together. It could be run at 20 remote locations, but we recognize that is not normally the way a response is conducted.

Sunnie Baldwin: Thanks! Right, but we have no facilities capable of such. So we use what we have.


Derri Hanson: Would this work to exercise a university/education?

Dan Donohue: Derri, I believe it has applications to all communities. Universities are small or large communities unto themselves and face many of the same issues.


Edward Deleon: If there is a mapping component, what technology is that based on? Does it use a geographic information system like ESRI and is there a programming interface to connect other products to it?

Dan Donohue: There is a mapping component. It is a geo-typical model. Plumes, equipment, etc actually move as the scenarios unfold and in response to player commands. The system as currently configured does not, but it can be upgraded. We do not have the money to do that now, but some communities are considering tailoring it specifically to their communities.

Amy Sebring: Here is a small section of a map:

[Slide 5]


Robert Eberth: From what you've said, I take it there is an "incident" and the responses are strictly to that incident and need not be concerned with the existence of a potentially reactive "OPFOR" [opposition force] that otherwise might, for example, have positioned second or third devices to take out responders. Correct?

Dan Donohue: Robert--there are single events and secondary events - scenario specific, of course. We tried to design this real world to allow for the unfolding of events as they might in a real situation.


Dorothy Miller: Derri just asked my question. I would like to apply it to a class in my certificate program and wanted to know if it could be used in that capacity.

Dan Donohue: Dorothy, drop me an e-mail at [email protected] and I will respond to your specific interest.


David Schwarz: Does the software provide recommendations at the conclusion of the scenario based on the decisions that were made? Or what the outcome may have been if a different decision had been made?

Dan Donohue: David, the software can be run in three modes - assessment, training, and tutored training. The AAR takes every action and compares it against an ideal standard. So there is potential help in the tutored training mode and in the AAR.


Mike Bloxom: What is the availability of the software - are there restrictions? Where do we get it? Approximate cost? Dan - so the CD contains everything we need to execute an internal exercise? I'm assuming it's free based on what I've read thus far.

Dan Donohue: Yes, it is free. It is available to jurisdictions at the site we posted. Interested emergency response and emergency management officials may request a copy of the CD at https://firstmuster.ngb.army.mil/aeas. It cannot be used for profit and the intellectual material is copyrighted.


Robert Eberth: To follow up on your answer to my previous question: is it all pre-scripted or is the OPFOR reactive to participant actions during the running of the simulation?

Dan Donohue: Robert, OPFOR is pre-scripted.


Mike Manscen: How can the Army and MANSCEN help to secure more funding and a long-term logistics tail for support?

Dan Donohue: Mike, I will work that with you offline.


Avagene Moore: We are out of time. Dan, we appreciate your time and effort on our behalf today. Thanks to everyone for participating today - you have been a great audience. Please help us thank Dan Donohue for his fine presentation. Dan, you did a great job! I am sure many communities will order AEAS! Thank you!

If interested in partnering with the EIIP, please see http://www.emforum.org/partners/criteria.htm .

The EIIP Virtual Forum is adjourned!