include simulations in their EOC exercises, EMTASC can model an incident such as a hurricane and feed emergency response managers data in the same format they would receive it during an emergency.

Officials in Virginia, who run an annual training effort called the Virginia Emergency Response Team Exercise, have taken advantage of the modeling capability, said Sickmier, who is an employee of Northrop Grumman Corp., on loan to EMTASC.

In one training scenario, the agency modeled plans to reverse traffic on Interstate 64 so that all traffic would be outbound during a hurricane evacuation. "We modeled the capacity of the roadways with maps and data from the Virginia Department of Transportation and the state emergency management plan," Sickmier said. "It allowed the team to assess how long it would take to evacuate a certain region."

Although users' response has been enthusiastic, Sickmier admits that finding customers among state and local emergency response organizations has been difficult so far.

"Localities are always going to have difficult funding decisions to make," he said. "It's tough for them to make the choice between spending on hardware such as radios versus more information or training.

But as the models are developed through federal grant funding, Sickmier said, other regions will be able to adopt it at lower cost, and then modify them for their particular environment. 

"Every time you do it," he said, "it gets cheaper."

David Raths  |  contributing writer