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How ORISE is Making a Difference

ORISE takes training to a higher standard during Chicago No-Notice Exercise

Providing extensive training to emergency response personnel to help prevent disasters is a hallmark of Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education’s (ORISE) National Security and Emergency Management Programs. One of ORISE’s unique capabilities is the no-notice exercise (NNX) team that largely consists of experts who draw on decades of operational experience within the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and military special operations communities.

For a week during the summer of 2010, while based at Argonne National Laboratory, the team conducted a full-scale training event throughout the greater Chicago area involving Radiological Assistance Program (RAP) Region 5, the Search Response Team (SRT) and Civilian Support Teams (CSTs) from three states. The goal of the exercise was to enhance search capabilities for locating threatening radiological material in an urban environment.

This event was the culmination of several months of planning by a team of representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Headquarters, ORISE, RAP Region 5, SRT, Joint Technical Operations Team (JTOT), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO), Chicago FBI and CST. In addition, RAP partners within the Chicago area provided multiple search sites, including airports, rail yards, high rise buildings, large arenas and convention centers.

The training event consisted of two distinct portions—both aimed at improving the effectiveness of search capabilities. One day was spent entirely on classroom and hands-on training, including reviewing conduct of operations within the Incident Command System (ICS) construct—deemed the gold standard for managing emergencies throughout the country—and reviewing procedures for using radiological detection equipment.

The second portion of the event consisted of a 36-hour, full-scale training opportunity. Throughout this part of the training event, RAP and CST were integrated into search teams that emphasized collaboration and interoperability. While teams were deployed to numerous partner sites throughout the city to continue refining their skills, back at Argonne National Laboratory, ORISE and other personnel were assisting, both as coaches and players, with effective management of a radiological search scenario using the ICS structure at the command post. This use of ICS gave federal partners an opportunity to hone their management, planning and operational skills.

Because of the ORISE NNX team’s efforts in Chicago, the federal government has significantly strengthened its ability to find maliciously employed radiological materials. New training events based off the success in Chicago are already being planned.