“A new group of actors is now available nationwide for active shooter drills and mall shooting full-scale exercises,” a press release from October 31, 2012 published by a Colorado-based professional acting studio called Visionbox reads. “Visionbox Crisis Actors are trained in criminal and victim behavior, and bring intense realism to simulated mass casualty incidents in public places...“improvise scenes of extreme stress while strictly following official exercise scenarios.” For a mall shooting simulation, “the actors can play the part of the shooters, mall employees, shoppers in the mall, shoppers who continue to arrive at the mall, media reporters others rushing to the mall, and persons in motor vehicles around the mall.”

The need for advanced leadership training simulation
By  Nicholas V. Iuppa (Belmont, CA), Andrew S. Gordon (Marina Del Rey, CA)
Recent United States Army studies have indicated that the leadership requirements of the modern war fighting force involve several significant differences from historical experience. Some factors of particular importance to the new generation of military leaders include: (i) the broad variety of people-centered, crisis-based military missions, including counter-terrorism, peacekeeping, operations in urban terrain and the newly emphasized homeland defense, in addition to more conventional warfare; (ii) the command of and dependence on a number of complex weapon, communication and intelligence systems involving advanced technology and specialized tasks; (iii) increased robotic and automated elements present on the battlefield; (iv) distributed forces at all echelons, requiring matching forms of distributed command; and (v) increased emphasis on collaboration in planning and operations.

The demographics of the military leadership corps is changing in several ways. Among the positive features of this change is a high level of sophistication and experience in computer use, including computer communication gaming and data acquisition. This means that modern training simulations should be as motivating and as well-implemented as commercial gaming and information products in order to capture and hold the attention of new military trainees.

There are currently highly developed aircraft, tank and other ground vehicle virtual simulators that realistically present military terrain and the movement of the vehicles within the terrain. Such simulators are very effective at teaching basic operational skills. Networks of virtual simulators, including SIMNET, CCTT and the CATT family, are also available to teach leader coordination of combined arms weapons systems during conventional and MOUT (Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain) warfare in highly lifelike settings. Likewise, constructive simulations such as BBS, Janus, WARSIM, WARSIM 2000 and others are very effective in focusing on the tactical aspects of leadership, i.e., representing movement of material, weapons and personnel particularly for higher echelon maneuvers.

But the same level of developmental effort has not been directed toward equally effective virtual and/or constructive simulators for training leadership and related cognitive skills in scenarios involving substantial human factor challenges. For example, driving a tank does not require the background knowledge, the collaboration or the complex political, diplomatic and psychological judgments that must be made in a difficult, people-centered crisis leadership situation. These judgments depend largely on the actual and estimated behavior of human participants, both friend and foe, in the crisis situation. Unfortunately, the complete modeling of complex human behavior is still beyond current technical capabilities.

As a result, these kinds of leadership skills have routinely been taught in the classroom through lectures and exercises featuring handouts and videotapes. It is possible for a good instructor to build the tension needed to approximate a leadership crisis, but sustaining the tension is difficult to accomplish. Showing the heartbreak of the crisis and the gut-wrenching decisions that must be made is not the strong suit of paper-and-pencil materials or low budget, home-grown videos.

Large classroom exercises such as "Army After Next" and "The Crisis Decision Exercise" at the National Defense University have attempted to give some sense of the leaders' experience through week-long exercises that involve months of planning. These exercises are effective, but they cannot be distributed widely or easily recreated without significant effort. Also, they are not easy to update and modify, and they require a large contingent of designers and developers, as well as on-site operators, to run them after months of planning time.

Story-based simulations, on the other hand, increase participant attention and retention because story-based experiences are more involving and easier to remember. Participants are also able to build judgmental, cognitive and decision-making leadership skills because the simulations provide realistic context in which to model outstanding leadership behavior. Story-based simulations can teach innovation because they are able to challenge participants by providing dramatic encounters with unexpected events and possibilities. Also, story-based simulations overcome the limitations of current constructive and virtual simulations in modeling complex human behavior, which is an increasing aspect of today's leadership challenges.

Crisis-based leadership training requires an awareness of human factors that has been especially difficult to teach through printed materials or the classroom. Giving complexity to an adversary's personality or turning a political confrontation into a battle of wits and will (things that, in fact, represent much of today's military decision making) are easier to discuss than to practice or simulate.

From a computational perspective, the term simulation is commonly used to refer to computational systems that compute subsequent states of a modeled environment by applying some transformational rules to the current model state. For example, weather simulations are computed in this manner--by first describing the current meteorological conditions and then applying knowledge about atmospheric conditions to make a prediction about what will happen in the future. Likewise, the U.S. military uses simulations to make predictions about the outcomes of battles and to give soldiers experience in simulations of potential future battles. The phrase `constructive simulations` has been used to describe simulations that compute subsequent states by applying transformational rules to the current state. Constructive simulations easily accommodate run-time interaction on the part of human participants. That is, at any moment in the simulation, a trainee can make a decision that changes the state of the modeled world and causes a change that will be propagated by transformational rules, and which may ultimately cause drastic changes in the final outcome of a simulated warfare environment.

The important disadvantage of the use of constructive simulations in military training is the surrender of pedagogical and dramatic control. While it may be desirable to use a simulation to provide pedagogically valuable experiences to trainees, there is little that an instructional designer can do to ensure that certain experiences will occur within the environment. As the trainees have free will and control over the course of the outcome of the simulation, it is impossible to ensure that a specific situation or set of situations will arise once the simulation has begun. The only direct control that instructional designers are given over the simulation is its starting state. Accordingly, there has been an increasing amount of interest in the notion of scenario development, where this has come to mean the specification of initial states for constructive simulations that are likely to lead to pedagogically valuable experiences for trainees.

While well-crafted initial states have a certain utility, particularly when training tactical skills for force-on-force warfare, other types of skill training suffer greatly due to the lack of pedagogical control. This is particularly true of military leadership skill training, where the lessons to be learned by trainees have less to do with timing and positioning of troops, and more to do with complex interrelationships among superior and subordinate officers and enlisted soldiers. In short, it is much easier to ensure that a tactical problem will arise given an initial simulation state than a leadership problem.

Given the autonomy of the actors' characters in a storyline, the story composer is additionally faced with numerous critical problems: how can the composer prevent the actor from taking actions in the imagined world that will move the story in a completely unforeseen direction, or from taking actions that will derail the storyline entirely? How can the composer allow the actors to make critical decisions, devise creative plans, and explore different options without giving up the narrative control that is necessary to deliver a compelling experience? Also, in the case of interactive tutoring systems, how can the composer understand enough about the beliefs and abilities of the actors to create an experience that has some real educational value, i.e., that improves the quality of the decisions that they would make when faced with similar situations in the real world?

Therefore, what is needed is a method and apparatus for advanced leadership training simulation that allows the participants to make real-time critical decisions, devise creative plans and explore different options without relinquishing the composer's narrative control and while allowing the composer to create an experience that improves the quality of leadership decision-making and delivers a compelling experience, preferably using story-driven simulation. Story-driven simulation is a technology that expands on previous research efforts to create interactive experiences in virtual worlds where the outcomes are known and specified in advance by instructional designers. This approach allows instructional designers to work with storyline writers to create a training experience that is dramatically engaging and includes a specific set of training experiences, but to do so in a manner that allows for a high degree of interactivity.


Social Media in Emergency Management

Social Media in Emergency Management
Increasingly the public is turning to social media technologies to obtain up-to-date information during emergencies and to share data about the disaster in the form of geo data, text, pictures, video, or a combination of these media. Social media also can allow for greater situational awareness for emergency responders. While social media allows for many opportunities to engage in an effective conversation with stakeholders, it also holds many challenges for emergency managers.

Click here to download our complete guide  to IS042 Social Media in Emergency Management, the official course launched last Summer by the Emergency Management Institute. This document gives you all the lesson summaries, as well as all course handouts, including:
How the Public Perceives Community Information Systems
Key Organizational Challenges
List of Commonly Used Social Media Sites, Platforms, and Tools by Emergency Managers
Common Steps to Adopting the Use of Social Media in Emergency Management
Tactical Uses of Social Media in Emergency Management

Note: This course is required training for all Crisis Actors performing members in 2013.

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The need for advanced leadership training simulation
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Crisis Actors Guide to Suspicious Behavior - Part 3
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Crisis Actors Guide to Suspicious Behavior - Part 2
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Crisis Acting News
'Sad reality:' Shooter drill at Merion Mercy -

Cal State San Bernardino hosts active shooter training on campus - San Bernardino Sun

Stanford lockdown drill leads to controversy - WKYT

Airway Heights agencies train for active shooter scenario - (registration)

Training Day: Carlsbad law enforcement practice for active shooter situation - Carlsbad Current Argus

Police rush to Cleveland Heights High School when safety exercise goes wrong - The Plain Dealer

Sumner Co. Sheriff Issues 'Active Shooter Bags' To Deputies -

Police, Firefighters to Use Seal Beach School to Train for Active-Shooter ... -

Active shooter training preparing Saginaw County law enforcement for school ... -

Seal Beach Police and OCFA to conduct active shooter exercise at McGaugh ... - Orange County Breeze

State-of-the-art police scenario training underway at no cost to taxpayers - WLWT Cincinnati

Milwaukee Police, Fire Departments take active shooter training - (multiple names)

Lima Schools officials talk about active shooter safety training - Lima Ohio

Active Shooter Training Held at Tahoe Vista Elementary - KTVN

Active shooter training exercise scheduled for Monday - KRNV My News 4

Police converge on mall for active shooter training - WKBN/WYFX-TV

Active shooter training for KCK police and employees - KSHB

Chino police, firefighters train together for active shooter incidents - Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

After Fort Hood tragedy, experts recommend changes to active-shooter training -

Active shooter training prepares Helena airport staff to respond to threat - The Missoulian