US & Canada explore readiness for nuclear emergency

Challenge

The Canadian Armed Forces conducted Exercise Staunch Maple 2017 in May to test Canada’s preparedness for a nuclear emergency. The full-scale exercise, which ran concurrently with NORAD and US Northern Command’s exercise Ardent Sentry 2017, involved hundreds of participants in Ottawa and Nova Scotia from a wide range of organizations. The exercise focused on enhancing interagency protocols and communication in order to build emergency capacity and improve Canada’s ability to respond to a man-made threat. To help test their processes, the Canadian Armed Forces needed a way to simulate the surge of social media posts, news media coverage and other internet content that would follow a mass-causality radiological event.

Approach

By presenting ground truth and other critical pieces of scenario information to the training audience on SimulationDeck, exercise planners illustrated how media monitoring builds situational awareness and helps intelligence officers connect dots. For example, exercise planners wanted players to gather information about who could be responsible for the attack. Within the massive amounts of synthetic social media posts on SimulationDeck, planners posted a handful of ominous threats from two terrorist groups warning of the impending detonation of a nuclear device. It was the mission of security and intelligence personnel to collect and analyze the data and put the pieces together to determine the validity of the posts.

Unexpected Opportunity

In past exercises, planners used what they called “a jerry-rigged system” to inject social media posts, television news stories, newspaper articles and other simulated Internet content into play. The system was unrealistic and required planners to bounce back-and-forth among different shared platforms to create and disseminate content. This was cumbersome for planners and the fragmentation of information made it difficult for participants to keep up with the ground truth. Using SimulationDeck during Staunch Maple 17, planners kept all resources in one password-protected location, making it possible for participants to view real-time social and traditional media content without having to switch back-and-forth from one platform to another. SimulationDeck’s consolidated exercise delivery platform also made it easier for planners to manage content, streamline inject delivery and respond more nimbly and realistically to player actions.

“From an exercise control perspective, [SimulationDeck] was excellent. It allowed for full situational awareness in the media domain in a complex multi-level, multi-national exercise. As a result, I am a huge fan. HICON was also impressed by its capabilities and usefulness to the exercise. This is the best system I have seen employed in an exercise environment. It was extremely useful and helped challenge play during Ex Staunch Maple. Most importantly, it allowed a diverse, geographically separated, multi-level, multi-agency EXCON and player staff to accurately monitor and coordinate simulated media play. SimulationDeck is well developed, and has a professional look and feel to it. Having SimulationDeck available greatly enhanced realism and coordination for both players and EXCON staff that I worked with during Ex STAUNCH MAPLE 17.”

Steve Fritz-Millett
Fort Frontenac Simulation Centre Site Leader
Exercise Staunch Maple 2017

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