Gotham Shield 17

My first time playing the role of a ROSS was at Gotham Shield in 2017. This was the name given to Vibrant Response 17 because the notional city dealing with the after-effects of a nuclear detonation was New York. This was also the first time that multiple ROSS were deployed to multiple locations within different jurisdictions. One went to New York City, one went to New York State, I went to New Jersey. We also tested the role “ROSS boss”, whose job it was to coordinate the activities of the 3 field ROSS who were providing guidance and recommendations to 3 different sets of decision makers all dealing with a common event.

My assigned jurisdiction was the State of New Jersey. Ground zero was in New Jersey (at the entrance of the Lincoln Tunnel), so the state was dealing with problems associated with all 3 damage zones, the dangerous fallout zone, the hot zone, and areas of lesser contamination. Unfortunately, the state was only playing for 1 day, and there just wasn’t enough time to fully address many of the issues that would normally have been of vital importance. I found that working directly with the ESFs was an effective way to inject recommendations. I also enjoyed a good reception from the state radiation control staff. The ESF leads and the radiation control staff would then (in theory) convey these ideas to incident command. It was a good lesson in working within the existing system and not trying to force a direct interaction with the command team.

Later in the exercise I was invited to observe at a Community Reception Center (CRC) set up at Rutgers University. Working in my state (Kentucky), I had been used to piecing together funding to purchase the things we needed to be reasonably prepared for a disaster of this scale. After arriving at this CRC, it was apparent that their level of preparedness was far superior to mine at home. They had good funding (being so close to NYC) and they knew how to best use their resources to achieve a very high level of readiness. I learned a great deal from them regarding the practical and effective operation of a CRC; knowledge that I brought home to improve our own response capability.

What a great experience. I am forever grateful to have had this opportunity.