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How ORISE is Making a Difference

ORISE Coordinates Exercise Planning Efforts During Empire 09 Emergency Management Exercise

Empire 09—a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)-sponsored, full-scale exercise hosted by the State of New York in June 2009—tested what outcomes could occur if two radiological dispersion devices detonated in downtown Albany. The exercise was specifically designed to evaluate the technical response and management of a domestic radiological dispersion device incident in an urban environment.

The three-day exercise, which brought together federal assets from across the country, including state and local officials, Radiation Assistance Program teams and the Federal Radiological Monitoring and Assessment Center (FRMAC), was only the second DOE-led exercise designated as a U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Tier II exercise under the National Exercise Program.

The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE), through its support to DOE’s Office of Emergency Response, was responsible for:

  • Coordinating overall exercise planning efforts
  • Providing controllers to monitor and execute the exercise
  • Offering players to respond to the scenario
  • Evaluating the combined response of the radiological emergency

In addition to the planning conferences, ORISE’s exercise prep work included two interagency drills; two large, facilitated discussions; and a full-scale exercise, which required additional coordination in order to produce a technically challenging and realistic exercise.

During Empire 09, ORISE also tested (for the first time) a paperless system of data management known as the Paperless FRMAC (pFRMAC). The pFRMAC system involves entering field data into specialized electronic tablets, which is sent to the Radiological Assessment and Monitoring System (RAMS) through communications devices, and then analyzed and disseminated back through RAMS. ORISE has played a pivotal role in developing and implementing the RAMS system, which has improved the overall efficiency of FRMAC operations.

With regard to planning for and responding to a real RDD threat, the lessons learned from Empire 09 will go far in preparing for a true emergency.