PHOTO ESSAY: MapAction conducts simulated volcanic eruption response exercise on Isle of Cumbrae
Every year, MapAction brings together its staff, its cohort of volunteers, partners and other stakeholders to hold a three-day exercise to simulate an emergency response to a given disaster. The objective is to strengthen the whole organisation’s disaster preparedness; to ensure MapAction is as ready as it can be for the next emergency response.
This year’s scenario envisaged a volcanic eruption on the fictional island of Ranas in the fictional country of Scotia. The exercise actually took place on the Isle of Cumbrae, 45 minutes southwest of Glasgow.
The scenario, partly designed around the local geography, accessibility and geological features, imagined that the local disaster relief network has requested MapAction’s presence, five days after the eruption, to map the disaster landscape and to help inform the decision-making process – to help save lives.
Volunteers play themselves in the simulation but several MapAction staff members assume roles for the exercise, such as the governor of the affected region, an environmental officer, a hostile journalist etc.
Senior staff members even go into costume to make roles more convincing.
The volunteers, many of whom work for leading GIS, AI, humanitarian or tech companies, have been split into five teams (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta and Echo), each with their own tasks and deadlines.
Volunteers are only given the basic context and details of the scenario the day they arrive to ensure the simulation feels as real as possible. In many emergency responses, a MapAction team will arrive in a rapidly unfolding and fluid situation in the affected country and will have to set-up and adapt fast to needs.
The simulation, dubbed Gilded Unicorn internally, is also an opportunity for partners to get a closer look at MapAction’s work and to share synergies.
The event was hosted by the Field Studies Council on the Isle of Cumbrae, off the west coast of Scotland.
The tech team brought more than 400 kilograms of tech equipment in over 20 metal boxes to the event. Each ‘Deployment Kit’ contains a pre-prepped laptop and the gear necessary to set-up a temporary office at the site of any emergency response.
On the final day, teams gathered to give each other feedback on how they handled specific requests while also offering each other tips and advice on specific maps.
This work was made possible with funds from USAID’s Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance (BHA)