On May 15, the Center for Advanced Preparedness and Threat Response Simulation (CAPTRS) led 10 public health authorities from the Austin area through an innovative pandemic planning game at the Texas Advanced Computing Center. The exercise included decision making authorities from the City of Austin, Travis County, and various Austin area hospital systems.
The game challenged players to activate emergency operations centers that can effectively combat an unfolding threat. With funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Predictive Intelligence for Pandemic Prevention (PIPP) program, the game was developed by cognitive engineers based on lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic.
As severe threats emerge, government agencies and leaders are often forced to rapidly establish new systems for collecting data, communicating across stakeholders, and making decisions. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, decision makers across the US scrambled to build such systems without clear playbooks and with only limited success. The game, which is called C3C –– command, control, coordination and communication –– is designed to ensure that cities, states and countries can rapidly and effectively coordinate responses to future threats.
“Command, control and coordination are essential functions in every crisis and emergency,” said Francesca de Rosa, Chief Scientist for Gaming at CAPTRS. “The C3C game allows decision makers and scientists to anticipate future challenges, test current pandemic plans, and design more effective strategies for responding to future threats.”
“Pandemic ‘war games’ help us prevent what we normally do, which is stress test plans based solely on past experiences,” said Dr. Mark Escott, Chief Medical Officer and EMS System Medical Director for the City of Austin and Travis County and the Texas Department of Public Safety. “The benefit of having a simulation exercise like this, is that it allows us to discuss threats which may arise in the future in order to create plans and clearly understand the roles of all decision makers and agencies.”
By all accounts, the exercise was valuable to all involved. Participants noted that it opened their eyes to the perspectives, challenges, and procedures of other stakeholders and shed light on next steps in safeguarding Austin against future pandemics.
We are grateful to all who participated in this pilot exercise, as well as NSF for supporting this work. We are also thankful for the support of Dr. Mark Escott, Dr. Desmar Walkes and Doug Havron in making this exercise possible.
Read local news coverage of the training: