Training and simulation in the service of homeland security

But the opportunity afforded by advances in modeling and simulation has much broader implications beyond terrorism. The recent devastation of Hurricane Katrina has exposed some weaknesses in terms of natural disaster response and shows that we need to revamp the decisionmaking processes at the very highest levels.
The use of modeling and simulation can help us do this.
At the same time that Hurricane Katrina hit, the Commonwealth of Virginia, as well as industry, community and academic leaders, was opening a new modeling and simulation center in Suffolk. This center, the Emergency Management Training, Analysis & Simulation Center (EMTASC), will focus on the command and management aspects of disaster prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery.
Most emergency management training in this country targets first responder training but EMTASC targets the operational level—the key level for decisionmaking, where the tactical response and strategic and political requirements come together.
With Old Dominion University’s Virginia Modeling, Analysis, and Simulation Center (VMASC) as a primary research and development arm, EMTASC provides technical research, development, and application of state-of-the-art modeling and simulation.
Our goal is to help improve the overall preparedness level for ­ emergency situations. EMTASC will offer realistic, challenging, cost- ­ effective homeland security and disaster recovery training, using current and prototype models and simulations. The training will expose leaders to the stress of making critical decisions during a time of natural or man-made disasters.
Subject matter experts, assisted by engineers, models, and simulations, will design, plan, prepare, and execute scenarios based on community, state and national requirements. Direct feedback to the leaders involved in the training is a critical part of the EMTASC service. In addition, experts assist officials with information to guide policy-making, address emergency response processes and procedures, and resolve other related issues.
One critical role EMTASC will play is identifying and evaluating how the varying levels of government and agencies involved in emergency management work together, and allow government to better coordinate a response to a disaster. EMTASC capabilities will allow leaders to apply command and management processes to more effectively coordinate resources to address catastrophic events.
The value of modeling and simulation
Modeling and simulation will also reduce long-term costs, because fewer personnel are required to participate in the training since their actions can be replicated.
One of the best selling points of modeling and simulation is its versatility: this technology is easily scaleable and can be effectively utilized by leaders at the town, city, county, regional, state, and federal levels.
EMTASC, with its one-of-a-kind mission, is the Commonwealth’s flagship for introducing the modeling and simulation industry into new fields and helping shape the Hampton Roads region’s future as a hub for this technology in the years to come.
As the Commonwealth’s chief emergency manager, I understand the value of such training for a crisis situation. We envision EMTASC leading to an expansion of modeling and simulation efforts into the medical, transportation and gaming fields, as well.
EMTASC will also be a significant building block in the development of modeling and simulation technology in Virginia and the Hampton Roads region.
This past April, I also announced the creation of the Virginia Initiative for Modeling and Simulation, or VIMSIM. We put aside $1,450,000 to support this program. The initiative does three things:
1) It helps foster the growth of the existing modeling and simulation industry in Virginia;
2) It helps expand Virginia’s modeling and simulation capabilities to support the rapidly growing needs of America’s military and the US Joint Forces Command;
3) It will provide a platform to expand Virginia’s modeling and simulation activities into non-defense sectors of the economy, such as medical research, transportation and homeland security.
Modeling and simulation have already proven their worth in the military field and it is now time to put them to use in the service of homeland security. There is an obvious need for this kind of training and technology in preparing and supporting those who are responsible for the safety and security of the American people. The Commonwealth of Virginia is proud to be a leader in this effort and in developing the tools that will help keep Americans safer and more secure at home.
Mark R. Warner, a Democrat, is the governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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