Written by Steven Pike, Argon Electronics
Providing military and civilian responders with access to realistic hands-on training is crucial in ensuring that they are able to confidently handle the challenges of a diverse range of CBRNe incidents.
A common issue for CBRNe instructors however, is how to deliver a training experience that offers the desired combination of authenticity, consistency and effectiveness.
When it comes to chemical or radiological hazards in particular, many trainers can find themselves having to sacrifice realism in favour of safety, or being constrained by logistical, administrative and regulatory considerations which can limit the scope of their exercises.
New innovations in simulator-based technology are now transforming the CBRNe training environment.
Argon Electronics’ wide-area instrumented training system PlumeSIM enables instructors to create flexible scenarios covering a diverse range of radiological releases, chemical warfare agents and hazardous materials.
In contrast to more traditional methods of CBRNe training, which can often rely on a large degree of ‘make-believe’, PlumeSIM provides trainers with the ability to create exercises that replicate real life.
Crucially too, there is the freedom for instructors to determine the parameters of the exercise ahead of time and then, once the training is underway, to focus their attention on observing the movements and actions of their trainees.
PlumeSIM offers the versatility of being used at every stage of the radiological exercise process, from pre-planning to field exercise mode to After Action Review (AAR).
When using PlumeSIM in planning mode, exercises can be set up on any PC or laptop without the need for any system hardware.
Common file format map images can be quickly uploaded and homemade sketches of the training area can also be easily added.
The system’s simple menu configuration enables the source type, quantity, location, nature of the release and desired environmental conditions to be set and adjusted as required.
There is the option to define a plume or hotspot based on a specific substance, CWA, radionuclide or compound.
Specific release characteristics such as direction, duration, deposition and persistence can also be readily implemented.
In table-top mode, trainees can familiarise with their live-field scenario by using standard gamepad controllers to navigate icons of themselves around an on-screen display of their training area.
At the point that the virtual plume scenario is activated, any contact with a simulated agent will trigger the activation of the trainee’s simulation instrument, with all actions able to be monitored from the control base via a short range radio communications link.
Throughout the training session all trainee movement is recorded and can then be played back at the conclusion of the exercise as part of the after action review (AAR) process.
Field exercise mode
When using the PlumeSIM system in field exercise mode, trainees are equipped with GPS enabled player units that can be monitored from the control base with the use of a long range radio communications link.
Once the virtual plume has been activated, any contact with the simulated source will be indicated on the display of the simulator instrument.
In environments where the conditions may impede the ability to obtain or maintain continuous long range communication, the scenario can also be pre-loaded onto the player unit and activated when required.
After Action Review (AAR)
Capturing trainee error is a vital element of radiological training, but it is an aspect that can be easily overlooked if the instructor’s attention is focused on administering the exercise rather than on observing the student.
With PlumeSIM, trainers are able to record every aspect of their trainees’ movements and play it back at the conclusion of the exercise as part of the AAR process.
Enhanced Live Training provision
In an exciting development for the provision of Live Training, Argon has partnered with Swedish military defence solutions provider Saab AB to integrate PlumeSIM into SaaB’s Gamer interface.
While the initial applications of the enhanced PlumeSIM training system have focused on the detection of CWAs, radiological simulation is also able to be readily supported and can be used in combination with Argon’s wide range of simulated portable survey meters and personal dosimeters.
If you would like to learn more about how PlumeSIM can enhance your existing programmes of CBRNe instruction please download a copy of the PlumeSIM Product Sheet.
About the Author
Steven Pike is the Founder and Managing Director of Argon Electronics, a leader in the development and manufacture of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) and hazardous material (HazMat) detector simulators. He is interested in liaising with CBRN professionals and detector manufacturers to develop training simulators as well as CBRN trainers and exercise planners to enhance their capability and improve the quality of CBRN and Hazmat training.