Low-cost, safe, local training of First Responders with Simulated Sources

Why conduct radioactivity response training with a simulated source?

Counter Terrorism Operations Support (CTOS) exercises for radioactivity are often conducted with live sources at special locations. The CTOS Center for Rad/Nuc Training at the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) offers such training designed "to prevent, mitigate, or respond to terrorists use of radiological or nuclear weapons of mass destruction". With the exception of awareness-level and online courses, all CTOS courses are "live agent" using radioactive material. For safety reasons, the sources are smaller than would typically be encountered in a real emergency, but large enough to demonstrate the use of measurement equipment. Using a simulated source allows training with a realistic-sized source without safety issues.


First responders use GammaPix Simulation App for training

The GammaPix Simulation App installed on unmodified smartphones used by First Responders, together with the GammaPix Command server-side system used by the Incident Commander, provides a lower cost, safer and more realistic exercise available locally, where the First Responders work. The system provides real-time communication and measurements of a more realistically-sized simulated source. Any trainee with a smartphone can determine the simulated radioactivity level at his location using the app screen or audible signals. Manual or automatic measurements can be made, with the frequency selected by the user or Command Center. The trainees implement a search path to define the safe cordon distance and locate the source.  A map of previous measurements is available on the smartphone's screen. The same smartphones can be used to monitor live sources with the GammaPix Detect app.

Incident Commanders use GammaPix Command

The radioactivity level, tagged with location and time, is automatically transmitted to GammaPix Command which receives, stores and plots the radioactivity data for use by the Incident Commander. The Incident Commander can issue instructions to the smartphone detectors to change their operation, such as increasing the measurement frequency and issue instructions to the trainee to direct his search path. The system allows real-time monitoring of the First Responder's performance and his simulated radiation dose as well as training of the Incident Commander. Exercises can be conducted at a low-cost and with maximum convenience in the user's own city in locations which are of concern.


Training at Texas A&M's Disaster City

The figure at the left shows simulated source data taken during a training exercise at Texas A&M's Disaster City facility at the Winter Institute in November 2013. The simulated source was placed in the building in the center of the yellow circle. Yellow symbols represent measurements made by trainees of the safety cordon at 2mR/hr, red symbols show higher radioactivity closer to the source, and green symbols, lower radioactivity. The cordon location indicated by the yellow circle at about 75m from the source was easily established by the First Responders approaching the source and listening for the audible alarm. By contrast, the next day's exercise with a live source had an unrealistically small cordon distance of only a few feet.