Posts tagged tabletop exercises

An interview with James Larsen – Emergency Services Officer for USAF Aux Civil Air Patrol

James is currently the Emergency Services Officer (ESO) for the United States Air Force Auxiliary Civil Air Patrol: Shelby North Carolina Composite Squadron MER050

He is responsible for all Emergency Services Operations, Training and Instruction to all personnel. Qualified Trainer/Evaluator in Communications, Ground Team Operations, Urban Search and Rescue, Advanced Land Navigation, Survival Training and NIMS operations. Coordinate large scale Operational Readiness Inspections (ORIs) utilizing the National Incident Management system, Multi-Agency and Multi-Jurisdictional exercise coordination for disaster response.

How long have you been using Depiction?

I have been using depiction for over 3 years for  Emergency Services and Business applications.

How did you first hear about it?

I was searching for mapping software for use in simulated exercises for the business I was working for at the time. The drills were required due to the fact that I was the Facility Security Officer at a classified facility in Cary, North Carolina.

Had you tried other mapping programs before choosing Depiction and if so why didn’t they work out for you?

I hadn’t tried other mapping software, but I was using Microsoft PowerPoint, using images from mapquest, then having to manual place static content on the document.

Are you using Depiction for personal use or for your work or both?

I am the Emergency Services Officer at Shelby Composite Squadron MERNC-050 (USAF Auxiliary-Civil Air Patrol) in Shelby North Carolina. I am responsible for coordinating drills and working with other agencies on developing emergency plans for the Squadron. I apply the tools in depiction both at work and at CAP.

What uses are you using Depiction for?

At Civil Air Patrol I run depiction for drills associated with natural disasters, aircraft crashes, coordinated search and rescue efforts (APRS Module) and mapping emergency service resources in the area (Fire Dept’s, Police Dept’s and Hospitals)

What features do you find most useful?

The integration of data to find resources, the ability to integrate weather patterns within the depiction and revealers to control content.

Could you relate a specific situation where you used Depiction in a real life situation and how it helped you?

Civil Air Patrol had an exercise on the weekend of January 18th to conduct a search and rescue training on my 50 acre property which required 4 teams of varying skill levels (referred to as Ground Team Members [GTM] and Ground Team Leaders [GTL]). We used depiction on an overhead projector in the mobile incident command post and as reports came in over the radio we updated the depiction to reflect the search. The exercise was for the recovery of a downed aircraft with unkown injuries. The depiction software allowed the IC team to keep track of GTM/GTL movements, incident responses and resource allocations. At the end of the exercise we used the collected data to conduct the NIMS debrief to all the teams.

If you were to recommend Depiction to someone else how would you explain why you think they should buy it?

I would tell them about all of the features and the flexibility of the software, and I would go the distance and show them actual exercises I have set up and used. I strongly believe that no exercise or live incident would be complete without Depiction, the software streamlines management of the NIMS process, provides real time updates and provides the Incident Commander with an edge not available from drawn maps. The weather integration, APRS add-on and the ability to take real time updates via email keeps everyone in constant communication.  It is my responsibility at the Squadron to ensure accurate reporting of the incident, maintain the safety of the ground and air personnel and coordinate with other agencies to respond to life threatening events. I would not trust any other software but Depiction to ensure I can execute all of the aforementioned.

The last three webinars have now been posted to the website.

I finally figures out what I was doing wrong and was now able to post the last three webinars to the website.  These covered:

  • Tabletop Exercises
  • What’s new in Depiction version 1.4
  • Water Simulation Elements

You can find them here.

February 22, 2012 Webinar

Russell Deffner(Depiction Preferred Consultant and Depiction University Instructor) will be presenting the next Depiction 101 Webinar on February 22nd and 9:00am PST/Noon EST. Below is Russell’s description of what he is going to be covering.

A Tabletop Exercise (TTX) is an excellent way to go through the motions of an event that is not part of your typical routine or just difficult or expensive to replicate.  I have personally participated in many TTX.  Some very good, some not so much; in my opinion the relative success of a TTX is how absorbed I get in the scenario.  If I can picture myself in the moment, making those decisions, then afterward I feel better prepared for the real thing.  However, in many of the TTX I’ve participated in, I find myself just reading verbatim or regurgitating the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) of the organization.  This, in turn, leaves me feeling like in the heat of the moment I’ll be in pretty bad shape if I don’t have time to open up the manual, leaving me discouraged or thinking how unrealistic that exercise was.

There are lots of factors to why a TTX is successful or not, or how much the participants will take away from the exercise.  In my experience one common thing that is lacking in the not so successful exercises is a good visual component.  As humans, we can gather and process more information from a picture than the same scene described in text.  During this webinar I will demonstrate some of the things Depiction can do to add a good visual component (and more) to your next Tabletop Exercise.

National Preparedness Month: LANL uses Depiction

National Preparedness Month is observed each September in the US. It’s a time when Americans take simple steps to prepare for the unknown. Depiction is partaking in this year’s event by featuring Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and how they use Depiction to prepare for such events as wild fire, potential security threats and scenarios on chemical leaks.

This webinar is free to attend! Alan Woodward, EOC Planning Sections Chief at LANL, will highlight several tabletop exercises, scenario simulations and take questions from attendees. This webinar is great for individuals, organizations and companies interested in preparedness planning and consequence assessment. Alan comments that LANL uses Depiction for its “ease of use, flat learning curve, professionalism and fast in-field collaboration capability”.

Attendees will learn how Depiction can be used to create simulations and facilitate ‘in the moment’ cooperation whether for a national laboratory, your neighborhood, fire department, police department, local government organizations or emergency field teams.

Alan Woodward joins us as our guest presenter September 22nd at 10:30am PST. He has worked in the Emergency Operations Division for 10 years as an analyst, emergency planner, and Section chief with over thirteen years experience developing geographic information systems (GIS) and GIS products. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Washington State University (in Physics) and a Master of Science degree from Oklahoma State University (in Plant and Soil Sciences). Currently, he is focused on developing GIS applications for emergency responders that can be used in an EOC or at the site of an emergency.

Also joining in to field questions and provide additional information are Rachel Hixson, Dave McClard and Bill Purtymun.

Rachel Hixson is a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) specialist with a Master of Arts degree in Geography from Arizona State University.  She is helping to develop the GIS capabilities of LANL’s Emergency Operations Center.  She has also been working on reverse plume modeling for a national bio-surveillance program at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) for three years.

Dave McClard works in the EO-EM Group as an Emergency Manager. Current responsibilities: Focus on response management, Emergency Operations Center (EOC) operability, planning and preparedness activities, communication operations, aviation operations, and wildland fire operations. Dave began emergency management work in 1986 as a search and rescue (SAR) pilot and search and rescue trainer. His last five years were spent as the State Emergency Services Director and squadron commander for an auxiliary of the United States Air Force.

Bill Purtymun originally became involved in emergency management as a Firefighter III/ EMT Paramedic.   He graduated from New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology with a BS in Geology. He has been employed at Los Alamos National Laboratory since 1989, initially as a Site Safety Officer for a non-reactor nuclear facility.  In the mid 1990’s he became a LANL Emergency Manager and Incident Commander for the Emergency Operations Division.  For the past several years he has worked in Hazard and Consequence Assessment at the LANL Emergency Operations Center.  In his spare time he volunteers with the local ski and mountain bike patrol and is a Nationally Registered Paramedic.   He is currently working on his masters in Emergency Management through Arizona State University.

Join us on September 22nd at 10:30am PST to learn more about how your organization can be better prepared, cross collaborate more efficiently and benefit from the Depiction software platform.

Hurricane Biz – an online tabletop business continuity webinar

Hurricane BizOn September 13, Depiction, Inc. and the Disaster Resistant Communities Group, two of the companies behind the Formidable Footprint series of national neighborhood tabletop exercises, are offering businesses in hurricane-prone regions an opportunity to assess the capabilities and capacity of their disaster response plan in regards to a hurricane.

During the exercise, management and staff will have the opportunity to work together as a unified disaster response team. The team will work through the various activities associated with preparing for, then responding to and recovering from, a category two hurricane. Whether you have a disaster plan in place that you want to assess, or if you are looking for a compelling reason develop one, “Hurricane Biz” will provide you with both the tools and experience to help you reach your goal.

The exercise will be facilitated online using the ON-Line eXercise (ONX) System, and will also make use of Depiction’s mapping capabilities to help businesses better create plans that take their unique geographic location into account. To learn more, visit www.HurricaneBiz.org.

Exercises Gaining Popularity

The Disaster Resource Guide Continuity e-Guide #355 released yesterday includes “Exercises Crucial for Effective Disaster Planning”. This is right in line with our thinking and our sponsorship of the Formidable Footprint Exercises. It’s great to see that this is an international trend! For more on Depiction and exercises, check out these upcoming and recent webinars:

Please let us know if we can help you plan or coordinate a local exercise (or if you plan to use Depiction in one).

Happy Depicting!

Depiction sponsors community exercise series

Depiction is excited to be helping out with a series of online community exercises, to help groups like Citizen Corps groups, neighborhood associations and others prepare themselves for disaster. The first of these “Formidable Footprint” exercises will be on October 30, and focus on a hurricane scenario. More details from Ric Skinner, a Depiction Preferred Consultant who helped connect us with the event:

Disaster Resistant Communities Group (DRCG) will develop, facilitate and evaluate a series of disaster exercises for neighborhoods entitled “Formidable Footprint – A Neighborhood Tabletop Exercise”. The “Formidable Footprint” series of exercises will serve as an opportunity for community and neighborhood organizations, including Citizen Corps, Community Emergency Response Teams, Map Your Neighborhood Teams, and Neighborhood Associations to assess the ability of neighborhood residents to work together to prepare for, respond to and recover from a variety of natural disasters which can affect the lives of neighborhood residents.

According to Skinner, DRCG recognizes that GIS is an important tool for Situational Awareness and a Common Operational Picture. “Formidable Footprint” scenarios – hurricane, earthquake, flood, wildfire, tornado, influenza pandemic — will incorporate Depiction mapping, simulation and collaboration software (Depiction, Inc.; http://www.depiction.com) to provide players with exercise-relevant maps with which they can interact, making the exercise more real and meaningful.

We are looking forward to these events, and think they hold a great deal of promise to help prepare communities around the country.

Virtual Tabletop Exercise Tomorrow

A lot of great things have come out of the recent Depiction course at CSULB, things that should benefit all our customers eventually. The first of these will be tomorrow, when Kim Buike will host a live virtual tabletop exercise based on a scenario developed for the course.

During the exercise, Kim and three Depiction users from across the country will run through a search and rescue scenario set in the San Gorgonio Wilderness area in Southern California. Attendees will watch the scenario unfold from within Depiction, with commentary from Kim about what is happening, and how others can run similar exercises. We’ve never done a webinar quite like this one, and we’re looking forward to seeing how it goes! Click here to register.

Drills & Exercises

John D. Solomon’s excellent blog “In Case of Emergency, Read Blog” has been on hiatus since December, but I saw today that he’s back, which is great news for all of us concerned with engaging the public in emergency preparedness.

One of his recent flurry of great posts is on the reevaluation of national disaster exercises by the Department of Homeland Security.

Convinced that the drills are the best way to determine whether the nation is prepared for a disaster, some emergency planners and state officials say they fear that as the federal government cuts costs, it may dumb down the tests so participants will pass them more easily. Shying away from the toughest problems, they say, risks repeating the mistakes that were made after Hurricane Katrina, when an unprepared White House and Louisiana governor clashed over who was in charge, how to allocate resources and whether to send in the military.

White House officials and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano say they are trying to improve the national exercises, not undercut them. The drills have grown into unrealistic, costly and over-scripted productions, Napolitano has said, an “elaborate game” rather than opportunities for officials to work through problems.

Last week I had the opportunity to take part in a multi-county tabletop exercise that used Depiction as the visualization component (we’ll have more details about that later). After that experience, I am more firmly convinced that affordable, flexible tools like Depiction can serve as a way to mitigate some of those dangers–particularly dangers of being overly costly and over-scripted–at all levels of government, from federal to local. It can also help responders (and citizens!) focus on working through problems, rather than shying away from the difficult ones.