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Urban Shield 2016 exercise tests Regional Catastrophic Earthquake Logistics Response Plan

Date: 2016-09-16
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San Francisco Bay Area Emergency Operation Centers conducted their Annual Yellow Command Exercise last week on September 8.

Yellow Command is an annual exercise opportunity for EOCs throughout the Bay Area to activate and collaborate, as will be necessary in a catastrophic incident with regional impacts.  As part of the Urban Shield 2016, the annual comprehensive, full-scale regional preparedness exercise assessing the overall Bay Area Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) Region's response preparedness, brought together numerous San Francisco Bay Area jurisdictions to exercise and evaluate the Regional Catastrophic Earthquake Logistics Response Plan for the Bay Area. This year’s scenario simulated the Bay Area’s response to a major earthquake, 72 hours after impact, coupled with a cyber-attack on local government. Yellow Command’s simulated response plan included a functional exercise testing operational coordination, full-scale activation of Commodity Points of Distribution (C-POD) sites, response capabilities for restoration of disrupted water systems, and protection capabilities against cyber-attacks.

Each year, Yellow Command participants make improvements based on prior exercise After Action Reports and regional gaps and recommendations reports. Exercising at least one of the Bay Area’s eight functional Regional Catastrophic Earthquake Plans through this exercise is a component of the Bay Area’s Regional Catastrophic Planning Grant Program (RCPGP) Sustainment Plan. This year, the Bay Area has chosen to exercise the Regional Catastrophic Earthquake Logistics Response Plan.

This year, 15 Emergency Operations Centers and 3 full-scale Commodity Points of Distribution (C-PODs) were activated during the exercise. These locations were supported by 30+ additional agencies simulating state, federal, and other local actions that would take place following a catastrophic earthquake. “Operational Area EOCs practiced resource ordering and coordination of resources with the State, including personnel who came from Los Angeles City and Los Angeles County as Emergency Management Mutual Aid to work in the San Francisco EOC, the South San Francisco EOC, the Alameda County EOC, and two of the C-PODs,” said Exercise Director Corinne Bartshire.

“Yellow Command is an annual exercise opportunity for Emergency Operations Centers throughout the Bay Area to activate and collaborate across the region, as will be necessary in a catastrophic incident with region-wide impacts, said Bartshire. “Several different software programs were used to maintain situational awareness and facilitate regional coordination including WebEOC, Cal COP, and Simulation Deck.”

“Exercises like Yellow Command are absolutely critical to ensuring first responders are always ready to act when needed,” said Chriss Knisley, President, Haystax Technology, who was on-site at the event in one of the emergency operations centers and who its Cal COP software for the event.  “The challenge with many of the technology systems used in emergency response is that they are only used in time of emergency. Imagine that people’s lives literally depend on your ability to use a complex computer application you were trained once on a year or two ago and haven’t touched since. Yellow Command gives emergency managers at least a yearly update or touch on some of those systems, which goes part of the way towards addressing the issue. The Bay Area UASI, like many other Haystax customers, have taken that one step further by turning what was originally a crisis response application into a daily operational use application.”

“Local government practiced passing out water to the community through Commodity Points of Distribution which, for the exercise, received donated bottled water from private sector partners,” added Bartshire. “This practice in the field and the practice for Emergency Operations Centers to support the operation of C-PODs was invaluable. It allowed our jurisdictions to test their plans, and make revisions as necessary so that if a dire situation arises, we’ll be prepared to distribute life sustaining commodities (food and water) as smoothly as possible.”

“We at Haystax believe this continuum of daily operations to incident response to crisis response is the best model for ensuring community safety every day,” said Knisley. “Many of the agencies that need to coordinate in a time of emergency are using Cal COP every day for routine operations and insight. They’ve integrated multiple data feeds from multiple disparate agencies into the system meaning they don’t have to spin up something new or deal with data integration issues in times of crisis. They’ve used the system day-in and day-out in some cases for years, so there isn’t the same lag as the users shake out the cobwebs of how they learned to do something 2 years ago.”

“We also brought in Public Information Officers from various jurisdictions in the Bay Area and had them collaborate as a Regional Joint Information System through the use of Slack, conference calls, and an exercise platform called SimulationDeck which simulates all media,” added Bartshire. “This resulted in unified messaging to the shared media market.”

“We’re proud to work with the State of California on this project,” Knesley concluded. “We firmly believe that starting with a solid, commercial-off-the-shelf product, then configuring, extending and integrating it to meet a region’s specific needs is the right model.”

For more information about Haystax, visit www.haystax.com/technology.

- People, Places & Things/9-1-1magazine.com (via Haystax Technology, 6/21/16)

Thanks to Kevin Eike of Raffetto Herman Strategic Communications for providing additional content for this report. -rdl

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