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Table-top exercise organized in Fogo 

V. Bosi*, L. Costantini*, B. Faria** and Jair Rodrigues***

* Department of Civil Protection of Italy (DPC), ** Instituto Nacional de Meterologìa e geofisica (INGM), *** Serviço Nacional de Proteçao Civil (Cape Verde)


Introduction
Information and training are fundamental for all the players involved in volcanic risk management: scientists, civil protection authorities at national and local level, journalists and, above all, the population. Thanks to information and training, every component of the civil protection system can be efficiently prepared to cope with a disaster in every moment. Money spent for information and training will be totally reimbursed by the drastic reduction of the number of victims and economic losses during future eruptions.
Following the main goals of MIAVITA project, many activities had been performed in order to study the state of the art of emergency preparedness for developing countries as well as for developed countries. All the acquired information and good practice are resumed in the “Handbook for volcanic risk management” edited by MIAVITA team (http://miavita.brgm.fr).
In this context, exercises are fundamental for testing procedures, preparedness, and emergency plans, already prepared, and to maintain the attention on the emergency preparedness and planning.
The concepts and indications contained in the handbook were used during the table-top exercise held in Fogo (Cape Verde) on 11-15 June 2012.

 

Table-top exercise in general
Table-top exercises are simulated interactive exercises that help to validate, consolidate and test the command and control chain, testing multiple functions of an organization’s operational plan, focusing on the coordination, integration, and interaction among the different components, procedures, roles, and responsibilities before, during, or after the simulated event. They usually involve the command and control chain of emergency response (at national, regional or municipality scale, depending on the exercises).
Table-top exercises can be used to identify weak points in the emergency plans and means to remediate some of them. They can also be very useful test communication equipment and protocols, and to test situations that would be impossible to run on the field in a full-scale exercise. A table-top exercises is cost effective because it does not require means, volunteers, etc., and this is one of the reason that allows civil protection authorities to perform it frequently
Another relevant scope of table-top exercises is that they can help people to learn how to work together, because they can/should be performed of a frequent schedule, on the basis of the level of impending hazards. Considering that in most of the countries the political level and the decision makers (e.g., Majors) change during time, table-top exercises are also fundamental to test continuously the adopted procedures, making the new-comes suddenly informed and trained.

 

Organization of the exercise
The training and the exercise had been prepared by the Civil Protection of Cape Verde (SNPC) and by the National Institute of Meteorology and Geophysics (INGM), the institute responsible for volcano monitoring. The Italian Department of Civil Protection participated to the exercise in agreement with local authorities. A preparatory phase included the generation of pamphlets and posters to be disseminated to scholars of Fogo. The preparatory phase included also the printing of a very draft copy of the handbook for volcanic risk management, which served as one of the inputs for the following exercise, using part of the “good practice” included in the volume.
The training and the exercise were organized with the following schedule and activities:
Day 1: meeting among SNPC, INMG and DPC representatives. During this meeting SNPC described the Cape Verde civil protection system, the main strength and weak points, and together with INMG some aspects regarding the preparation of the exercise. INMG illustrated the activity performed during MIAVITA project, which led to have an efficient seismic network (with the support of the Government) that links the majority of the islands (Fogo, Praia, Sao Vincente, Sal, Brava, Santo Antao). INMG also illustrated the table of alert levels, built by B. Faria (INGM), during his Ph.D. DPC compared the present situation with that evidenced during the 2009 workshop in Fogo, with the participation of the main Authorities of Cape Verde. DPC also described the structure of the handbook, the main results and the good practice included in it. This allowed to include the MIAVITA handbook recommendations in the final table-top exercise.
Day 2: DPC and SNPC works on the five alert levels table (Fig. 1).  Following the suggestion present in Section 4 of the “Handbook for Volcanic Risk Management”, for each alert level were drawn procedures and actions to be performed by SNPC, by the local districts government, and by scientist of INMG (temporary networks, increasing of measurements frequency, etc.). The SNPC would implement the table of alert levels with more accurate procedures, protocols and agreements.


Figure  1 – Table of alert levels that includes also the planned civil protection and scientific activities for each level. The table is indicative and it serves to work on the exercise. A future table of alert levels would be threated by SNPC and INGM in next future. From B. Faria, PhD thesis, modified and translated in English.


Day 3 and 4: Preparatory actions in the field. Pamphlets and posters (Figs 2-3) were disseminated in most of the schools of the three districts of Fogo Island. Teachers and students were not advised of the visit but nevertheless they nicely accepted our presence and the explanation of the material by INMG and SNPC (Figs 4 and 5). SNPC asked for confirmation about the presence of the various stakeholders to the table-top exercise that have been occurred in day 5. Many stakeholders confirmed their presence.


Figure 2 – Cartoon describing the correct behaviour to have before and during an eruption.


Figure 3 – Front and back of the pamphlet distributed in the schools of Fogo and in some administrative office.


Day 5: on Friday 15 June 2012 the first table-top exercise took place in Fogo Island. Many stakeholders participated, including the representative of two of the three districts (Cha das Caldeiras and Monsteiros) and the Media. During the exercise the main stakeholders played their own role, while DPC played the role of the volcano, giving “signals” to the seismic network and some other elements, observable from the population (deformation, gas releasing etc.). It was previously established to give just signals recognizable by the present network (seismic), being no useful to give details that could not been detectable. The exercise followed the procedures and actions already present in the new table of alert levels. From “volcano” signals, Bruno Faria from INMG analysed the situation and declared the corresponding alert level, passing the information to SNPC. Just after this declaration, all the present stakeholders simulate the actions to be undertaken, with respect to their own responsibility.
The exercise closed with a short debriefing and the encouragement to perform new exercises at least once per year, considering the state of activity of Fogo Volcano and its volcanic behaviour.

 

Figure 4 – Jair Rodrigues (SNCP) explaining the cartoon content to students of primary school.

 


Figure 5 – Bruno Faria  (INGM) explaining the main possible volcanic hazards to students of primary school.

 

Results
The success in the organization of the exercise in Fogo highlights some important aspects in preparedness.
First of all, it has been demonstrated that the organization of such exercises is not so complicated and it does not required a long time. The cost of the exercise was limited to the editing and printing of pamphlets and cartoon, and to the cost of mission for few people. It was the first table-top exercise and nevertheless it has been organised just before the administrative elections (the electoral campaign does not fit very well with preparedness activities), the response of the stakeholders was good, even if not perfect. In this first exercise the administrative stakeholders, in particular, showed a good attention but they were not pro-active, as it would be required.
This indicates very clearly the relevance of a constant scheduling of these exercises for increasing the pro-activity, the response and the quality of the exercise itself.
The suggestions included in the preliminary edition of the Handbook for Volcanic Risk Management had been applied with very few changes, demonstrating the validity of the handbook itself. The methodology exposed has been widely accepted by our partners and by the participation to this exercise.
We are sure that the new concept introduced during these five active days will have a good development in Fogo, with new exercise and training to prepare the people to face the next volcanic emergency when it will take place.