SimulationDeck Helps US Virgin Islands Close Gaps in Emergency SOPs
The US Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA) had recently completed drafting their External Affairs Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for a major event. Their new SOP included plans for establishing a Joint Information Center (JIC) where public information officers (PIOs) from multiple agencies would coordinate messages.
To test the effectiveness of their new SOP, leadership needed an exercise to realistically simulate the pressures, opportunities, and challenges of an emergency.
The VITEMA leveraged SimulationDeck in a four-day, full-scale exercise coordinated by U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). More than 1,000 military personnel and first responders participated in the Vigilant Guard Exercise that simulated the effects of an earthquake-generated tsunami causing significant damage to the islands of St. Thomas and St. Croix.
During the exercise, public information officers (PIOs) from nearly 20 different agencies on the islands of St. Croix and St. Thomas implemented the new External Affairs SOP.
Exercise scenario information and ground truth were presented to the JIC team via SimulationDeck’s simulated news broadcasts, newspapers, social media platforms, blogs, and other simulated Internet sites. Throughout the exercise, SimulationDeck’s live experts in the SimCell used various synthetic social media accounts to simulate public concerns and media inquiries, prompting the PIOs to leverage the External Affairs SOP and JIC operating procedures to share information, deconflict rumors, and coordinate messages. The fast pace and intense volume of public and media inquiries delivered through SimulationDeck made the exercise environment feel like a real-world incident.
The Unexpected Opportunity
By the end of the exercise, the PIOs had a much better understanding of the magnified pressures and challenges of communicating during an emergency. SimulationDeck also helped expose gaps in VITEMA’s SOPs, providing an opportunity fo VITEMA PIO’s to revise the External Affairs SOPs based on lessons learned before an actual emergency occurred.
“The training was a real eye-opener for us with SimulationDeck. The public information officers didn’t expect it to be a stressful situation, and we were scrambling to verify information and respond to information that was being put out by the online newspaper, television news, and social media. The information was realistic, nothing felt simulated and we realized we needed to work much harder honing in our skills. This was the first time we set up a JIC and it was a lot harder and more complex than we anticipated. The local government has 30 public information officers, and many of them have been in the business a long time, but SimulationDeck showed us that being able to do public information in their daily lives is much different than managing public information in a disaster."
VITEMA Public Information Officer