This was tremendously exciting. It was also very difficult. This was July 2014 and I had only been introduced to the ROSS role by Dr. Dan Blumenthal a couple months earlier. Everything he gave me to prepare was in a draft form. I was going to play the ROSS for the first time in a full-scale National Level Exercise and had two evaluators following me. I worked the first two days at the incident command post (ICP) and the last two days at the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC). Below are just a few of the experiences I had, learned from and try to teach other ROSS from today.
At the ICP, we pulled out a large map of Indianapolis. Nobody really knew what happened or what to do first despite the simulated devastation and sights and sound of disaster outside at the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center. At our first briefing, I described how an area of more than two miles radius looked like the photographs people had seen of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and that the first thing we had to do was get messages out to the public and responders to get inside, stay inside and await further instruction. The Incident Management Team was composed of experts with flooding and tornadoes, but they were overwhelmed by the death and destruction from a nuclear detonation.
Eventually, we all got into a battle rhythm, and started getting good things done throughout multiple operational periods: safety messages got out to responders, appropriately scaled objectives got into the Incident Action Plan, and adoption of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Radiation Triage, Treatment and Transport (RTr) model, We used this for a combination of moderate damage zone entry control points and for casualty management. By the end of the second day, the ICP was running more effectively despite scarce resources and terrible human and environmental conditions.
When I went to the SEOC, the Mayor of Indianapolis was lifting the shelter-in-place order and people were setting up decontamination-based community reception centers (CRCs). I recommended that we use maps to show everybody on mass media who was unaffected, who needed lifesaving medical care, and who could best take care of themselves. Sadly, the map also showed where many people died. FRMAC created the custom map and the Policy Group and Joint Information Center (JIC) worked on the delicate messaging. We also diverted resources from decon-based CRCs and asked people instead to self-decon and call in to register for radiation dose assessment. Working with DHSS and the JIC, we created a dose assessment tool based on the onset of symptoms and the location of people and the duration of time at those locations.
The After Action Report from the two evaluators that followed me was based on interviews of State and local responders I served. They reacted to the help I tried to provide as a ROSS. From all accounts, the ROSS was well-received and the exercise resulted in a better response and basis for recovery. You can see a larger presentation on this at: https://www.nationalrep.org/2015Presentations/Session%2014_Radiological%20Operations%20Support_Irwin.pdf.