University leads the evaluation of UK’s largest annual disaster response exercise

The University’s Critical and Major Incident Psychology Research Group (CAMI) took the lead on evaluating the UK’s largest annual disaster response exercise this week (15 to 17 May) entitled SimEx (Simulated Exercise) 2018.

CAMI focuses on understanding decision making in critical environments and how to capture knowledge to support acceleration of expertise. Therefore, the group have been involved in supporting the lead agencies of the exercise, the University of Portsmouth, Hampshire Fire & Rescue, RedR UK, and L2S2.

CAMI’s expertise of having been involved in several live exercises and incident debriefs was utilised to develop evaluation frameworks for responders and casualties taking part in the exercise. These surveys are designed to capture the experiences of the responders and casualties during and following the exercise, exploring how effective communication is achieved, what supports effective decision making during crises and what can support resilience in communities.

Major storm

This year the exercise took place across 18 sites in Hampshire and involved more than 3,000 people and 64 local, national and international emergency response organisations.

This disaster scenario revolves around a major storm which brings heavy winds, rain and storm surges. This results in coastal and inland flooding, environmental pollution, major infrastructure damage and displacement of people.

Dr Michael Humann, leading on behalf of the CAMI research group at SimEx 2018, described their involvement: “This is a unique opportunity for us to expand traditional academic research into real-life environments, and work side-by-side with the responders and individuals who then deploy to disasters and emergencies all over the world. Providing an independent evaluation layer allows us to assist in identifying good practice and target recommendations to priority areas.”

Improving interoperability 

Naomi Morris, a lecturer in Humanitarian Emergency Response and Recovery who co-directed the event said: “Improving consistency among institutional training of humanitarian and emergency response personnel can lead to improved interoperability among responders, in turn significantly improving the efficiency of coordination and our overall response for all.”

International Development Secretary MP Penny Mordaunt said: “The UK has led the response to some of the world’s biggest recent humanitarian disasters and this exercise will show DFID’s experts working in partnership to make sure our responses to crises around the world are bigger, better and faster to help save more lives. It will also make sure our emergency services are ready and have capacity to respond to events here in the UK.”

The SimEx Series of exercises have taken place annually since 2012. The exercise comprises a mix of live, simulation and command and control events in order to provide a neutral platform to test both national and international emergency response mechanisms.

More information about the University of Liverpool’s Critical and Major Incident Psychology Research Group can be found here.

Dr Sara Waring is the research director for the Critical and Major Incident Psychology Research Group. She talks about the challenge of making smart decisions in the most stressful situations imaginable in our podcast that can be found here.

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