Simulation Center for Emergency Management Innovation

An answer to the challenge of dynamic and daring leadership in Emergency Management

I asked earlier if dynamic and daring leadership could be found in a risk-averse culture like Emergency Management. I spoke of the challenges involved with the Incident Command System, but left the challenge of making change unanswered. I did, however promise you an answer…which can be found in this post.

If we truly want to have dynamic and daring leadership in Emergency Management, then we need to have a place where we safely innovate and try new things without putting people’s lives at risk. My vision for this Simulation Center for Emergency Management Innovation (SCEMI) is one where different and innovative models of Incident Command and Emergency Management can be safely developed and simulated through a combination of computer-based and human simulations.

Photo by Soumil Kumar on

This is not an easy thing to do, and will require the involvement and investment of the public sector, the private sector, independent consultants, and non-governmental organizations involved in Emergency Management. There is lots of work to be done, and a place for everyone who wants to be involved.


A non-descript building in an easily accessible location would provide a certain level of anonymity to the physical location. While there likely wouldn’t be anything requiring security clearances, the ideas and specific scenarios are ones that should be kept confidential. A business park close to a major airport would likely have the amount of space along with the necessary technological infrastructure SCEMI would need.

The proximity to an airport is crucial for a few reasons. As currently envisioned, SCEMI is a residential program that relies on experts from various sectors and geographic locations, this will require access to hotels or other short-term accommodations which can often be found in abundance close to airports.

There will also be a significant amount of public transportation close to the airport which will allow for easier movement around the city by participants when they aren’t involved at SCEMI. Finally, there will always be the possibility that a participant may need to leave SCEMI in a hurry as a result of an actual incident in their home jurisdiction.

There needs to be sufficient space for classrooms/boardrooms for conversation and instruction, along with smaller rooms for break-out space. Some of the space will be dedicated to offices of full-time SCEMI staff who are responsible for the operation of SCEMI. A significant amount of space will be required for simulations including at least one full Emergency Operations Center. Along with this simulation space will be the need for major IT equipment that is capable of simulating variables throughout the entire emergency management cycle.


SCEMI’s purpose is not to instruct people in how to use existing emergency management or incident command systems, but instead to innovate and find new ways of managing emergencies and disasters. As a result, there is a need to have people who can look past existing paradigms and find new ways of moving forward.

Along with an executive director who is responsible for the overall operation of the center, there will need to be a corps of researchers and experienced practitioners who can integrate both research and practice. Among the most important role that these people will play will be the facilitation of conversation around emergency management and finding the strengths and weaknesses that currently exist.

Everyone who works at SCEMI needs to have an open mind, one that is geared towards problem-solving, especially when it comes to challenging situations and complex disasters. The ability of SCEMI staff to look at challenges from multiple angles will be crucial to the success of SCEMI.

Complimenting the researchers and practitioners will be a group of skilled and inventive exercise facilitators. They will be responsible for the implementation and running of the exercises that will be at the core of SCEMI. They will be the ones who take the participants through various scenarios and see how the implementation of various innovations changes the outcomes of emergencies and disasters.

Sim Cells

In order to effectively simulate the complexities involved in emergency management, there will need to be experienced personnel who are capable of effectively simulating the responses of various organizations during an emergency. This means there is a need for a corps of contract personnel who are able to fill positions in sim cells that will add real-life complexity to the scenarios at SCEMI.

The people who populate the sim cells will need to reflect the wide variety of people, organizations, and companies who can be involved during an emergency or disaster. The lived experience of people from various sectors and backgrounds will increase the complexity of the simulations as well as add unexpected challenges.

Eventually, some, or even many of these sim cell functions can be automated through the use of effective computer programming along with skilled exercise facilitators. Even after some of these functions have been automated, there will be a need for the creativity and innovation that only human intervention can currently provide.


In order for something like SCEMI to be successful, the participants need to come from all aspects of emergency management. No single agency or organization has a monopoly on good ideas, and the goal of SCEMI is to improve the profession as a whole. This means that the participants need to range from emergency management students all the way up to highly experienced incident managers.

They should come from all areas of life, and from every area that is touched by emergencies and disasters. Innovation cannot happen if we stay within our silos, it is by engaging with others that we can find creative inspiration and new approaches to emergency management. While at SCEMI, participants do not have a rank, everyone should approach the opportunity by letting go of their egos and sharing freely of their knowledge.

As mentioned above, SCEMI is envisioned as a residential program for participants to enable them to fully participate without worrying about transportation or other needs. All expenses for travel, accommodations, and meals should be paid by SCEMI to eliminate the barrier of cost. Employers would be responsible for continuing to pay participants during their time at SCEMI.

Next Steps

This isn’t a small idea…in fact it is a very large and likely a very expensive one. This isn’t a one-person idea, and if something like this is to happen then it needs more than just me involved. That’s why I’m putting it out there. Hopefully others will see this and feel like it strikes a chord with them. I want this to be something that gets transformed and empowered by other people’s ideas and visions.

I want you to be a part of it, and want to hear your ideas on how to move this closer to actuality instead of a dream.

Join 175 other followers


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: