Computerized Simulators of Salvadoran Armed Forces Improve Rescue Operations
By Lorena Baires/Diálogo August 11, 2016Storms, floods, and landslides are becoming increasingly aggressive in El Salvador, so the country’s Armed Force (FAES, for its Spanish acronym) is training its command personnel to improve rescue operations for the civilian population during any disaster. Since last May, these training sessions have taken place at the Computerized Tactical Training Center (CETAC, for its Spanish acronym). Thanks to precise mathematical models and complex calculations based on Salvadoran cartographic data, the modern center allows trainees to face simulated weather-related disasters like those that occur in real life. During a recent session, teams had to face a mock storm with overflowing bodies of water and flooding in agricultural communities in the departments of San Vicente and Usulután, located in the eastern part of the country. "This simulation introduces real situations that our troops could face in the field. The training sessions seek to improve decision making to avoid deaths among the civilian population and our personnel, as well as to raise the level of efficiency in the use of resources," explained Colonel Jaime Ruiz Chávez, CETAC director. Participants were divided into units, and each commander had to assume control of all alloted resources and delegate responsibilities to promptly carry out rescue and relief missions. In this way, all participants were able to put their knowledge to the test at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels of military leadership. "This simulated emergency has occurred in reality, and the population feels secure and confident awaiting our help. It is therefore important to increase our operational readiness to act immediately, responding to demands," said Lieutenant Commander Humberto Samayoa, one of the unit commanders for this exercise. A total of 29 members of the Sectoral Technical Commission for Logistics, comprising the Ministry of Health, the Red Cross of El Salvador, the General Directorate for Civil Protection, the National Civil Police, the Autonomous Executive Port Commission, and the National Administration of Aqueducts and Sewers, participated in this simulated storm. Carlos Hernández, representative of the National Directorate for Civil Protection, acknowledged that CETAC's simulation tools have been valuable in pointing out deficiencies in rescue and emergency care procedures. "For us, it is important to participate in these events because it allows us to experience real disasters, identifying how to best provide a prompt and effective response to the people when they are impacted by these phenomena," Hernández said. Over the past 10 years, El Salvador has been impacted by four large meteorological events. The level of response from the FAES and relief agencies has allowed for a reduction in the number of deaths. In 2005, Hurricane Stan left 70 dead; in 2009, Hurricane Ida caused 91 deaths; in 2010, 11 people were killed as a result of Tropical Storm Agatha; and 32 deaths were recorded after tropical depression E-12. Support for military teaching system Brigadier General Luis Ortiz, commander of the Doctrine and Military Education Command (CODEM, for its Spanish acronym), said that CETAC is a valuable technical tool for training rescue entities because its simulator creates realistic situations and is the only one of its kind in Central America and the Caribbean. "To help improve their response capabilities, CETAC is at the disposal of any government institution involved in assisting the civilian population during emergencies," Brig. Gen. Ortiz said. These exercises, and others developed at CETAC, have allowed CODEM's schools to enhance their curricula by establishing procedures that focus the lectures toward integrated teaching methods. This creates interest in research and incorporates modern technology into learning systems. Engineer Carmen Elena Gallardo, a member of CETAC's Research and Development team, believes that simulation applications in the past few years have increased within the armed forces and in practically all of the armies without exception. "Without a doubt, important technological innovations have been produced that have influenced the process, but the fundamental cause for this increase has been the conviction that simulation can provide assistance in diverse fields – from instruction and training to evaluation, planning, and decision-making," Gallardo said. These applications often begin as video games, but, because of their popularity and the immersion level that is achieved, military-exercise versions have been developed.