Making it Real: "Mock Media" in Exercises
Emergency planners know that, when a crisis occurs, providing timely and accurate communication to the public and the news media is a critical element of mounting an effective emergency response.
As a result, emergency preparedness training now regularly simulates interactions with news media role players during a "crisis" as a standard element of such exercises. By covering the training exercise "story" as if it were an actual event, media role players create a safe, controlled environment in which responders can practice and improve their abilities in providing emergency information to the public — so that when the time comes, they are ready for the real thing.
Argonne's mock media team has supported hundreds of exercises over the last 20 years through the Risk Communication and Management program. Drawing from a cadre of journalists and other communication professionals, they test participating organizations by simulating traditional print, broadcast news, and social media.
The mock media players gather information and produce real-time news stories on the basis of what they learn, and participating players monitor and respond to these reports. The team includes field reporters and videographers who are quickly on the scene, and reporters in a Simulation Cell who represent media outlets calling from outside the affected area.
Through its Exercise News Network Web site, the mock media employ the latest communication technologies — streaming stand-ups and interviews from the field; live exercise news conferences; and social media tools for instantaneous, real-time communication.
Sample Video: Mock Earthquake
In a recent tabletop exercise in Utah, the Salt Lake Valley is struck by a 7-magnitude earthquake. The mock media developed a series of breaking news reports by deploying a studio anchor and multiple field reporters. These stories advanced the scenario and created a realistic environment in which players could test their response plans and procedures during the first hours after the earthquake.
But these "live" reports from around the badly damaged Salt Lake area were created more than a thousand miles from the earthquake's epicenter — on a virtual set at the Argonne campus outside Chicago. The news anchor and field reporters were shot against a blue screen, and video was later inserted in the background — transforming a blank backdrop into a disaster-ravaged landscape.
See the sample mock Salt Lake City earthquake newscast in Windows Media Player or Quicktime formats.
Argonne Can Support Your Exercise's Media Simulation
Members of Argonne's Risk Communication and Management team are ready to provide media simulation tailored to your area and exercise training event. These types of simulations include opportunities for emergency responders to be interviewed on camera and to address the media at mock news conferences and briefings. Argonne staff can also participate in debrief sessions to help assess any areas for improvement. In these and other ways, the mock media players become crucial members of your exercise planning team, helping to prepare today's emergency responders for tomorrow's crises.
For more information, contact:
Risk Communication and Management
Center for Integrated Emergency Preparedness
Decision and Information Sciences Division
Argonne National Laboratory
9700 South Cass Ave., Bldg. 221
Argonne, IL, 60439
E-mail Brett Hansard