ATSsim – Changing the way disaster managers train and exercise

Disasters, natural or manmade, can strike at any time. Preparing for disasters requires an all-hazards approach by emergency management officials, starting with training and exercise. Over the years, exercises have evolved into complex events using new technologies to simulate realistic events, allow for multiple partners, and track actions for comprehensive after-action reports.

As emergency managers know, all disasters are local. It is important for training and exercises to start at the local level. As disasters increase in complexity, a response or recovery could include state or national disaster response agencies. States conduct annual exercises to test the capabilities of their teams in coordination with local partners and, at times, other states.


National-level exercises may include local, state, and federal emergency management teams, military components, private sector partners, and academia. The new training and exercise tools will allow partners to collaborate over multiple days and multiple locations simultaneously. Applied Training Solutions (ATS) does this with the ATSsim training and exercise solution.

The U.S. Army and National Guard have counted on ATS training and simulation tools since 2009 to provide the most realistic training simulation available. ATSsim supports the Department of Defense CBRN and All Hazards training exercise programs.


What is ATSsim

ATSsim Suite is a full-spectrum, web-based, versatile disaster training and exercise tool that provides users with a simulated training environment that is realistic and scalable to meet the needs of the user. ATSsim integrates Homeland Security and Department of Defense requirements to provide disaster management teams the ability to train their teams at the same time while meeting national requirements.

The ATSsim platform establishes an exercise lifecycle foundation for collaborative planning and realistic exercise design. The tool supports a fully distributed exercise model with mobile evaluation and observation, voice and video chat, breakout rooms, individualized exercise data collection, After Action Review (AAR), and lessons learned support.

How ATSsim is Different

ATSsim introduces event planning features that enable users to conduct overall program management activities throughout exercise design, development, execution, and evaluation.

• Program Management Support: preparedness priorities, integrated preparedness planning workshop, and exercise resource management

• Planning Support: Master Scenario Event Lists (MSEL) meeting(s), planning meeting (s), synchronization meeting (s), and virtual meeting rooms


ATSsim is a single application tool with features and capabilities to support table-top exercises (TTX), staff trainings (STAFFEX), command post exercises (CPX), functional exercises, full-scale exercises (FSE), and discussion-based exercises with a common set of integrated tools. Key features include:

• Exercise Design / Development

o Supports exercise planning activities, resource planning, exercise design and development

o Training objectives / MSEL inject mapping

• Conduct Exercise

o Supports evaluation planning, observation and data collection, data analysis, after-action reports, improvement plans, and conducts after-action meeting

o Supports automatic delivery of injects, stimulation of COPs, integrated voice and video, and screen sharing capabilities

• Shared Exercise Data

o Exercise library to support re-use and sharable exercise components and a simulation component library to store information about entities, icons, effects, entity class, and task organizations


Training observation and evaluation allow for data analysis, to include both actionable and valuable feedback. ATSsim provides:

• Mobile evaluation, observation, and data collection capabilities

• Data storage in the ATSsim database for AAR, lessons learned, and other requirements

• Evaluator and observer roles have access to observer tools, capture their evaluations and observations, make recommendations, and capture discussions with other participants

• Performance metrics for measurement and assessment against tasks

• Identification of key observations, themes, and trends, that may lead to lessons learned

• Identification of overall themes and trends to assist with after-action reporting

• Improvement and corrective action planning activities


Through reporting metrics, ATSsim offers support with after-action reports, key observations, lessons learned, training objective assessment, training participation reports, user login activity reporting, and exercise summary reports. One of the many highlights is game engine integration (Unreal & VBS3), which includes:

• Tactical level vignettes and mini games to immerse the training audience and further reinforce training objectives

• Two-way communication between ATSsim and game engines

• Movement in game environment tracked in exercise Geographic Information Systems (GIS) viewer

• Decontamination Training Simulation (DeconSim) focuses on mass casualty decontamination scenario using a mobile tent setup by local emergency responders

o Multiple roles to be defined for specific training

o Each role will be presented with standard procedures as well as extraordinary events to foster a well-rounded training experience

o Realism will be maintained as much as possible with occasional gamification elements to ensure teaching points

• Modeling large population human behaviors using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Autonomous Behaviors from game engines to drive game effects

• Near realistic and simulated behaviors during simulation plan