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Exercise X24 Europe

X24 Europe is a highly inclusive, academic humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercise from March 29-31, 2011 that occurs globally, locally, and virtually.  You are invited to observe and participate. The website tells you how:  The “actual events” – two earthquakes and tsunami in the Adriatic – began Tuesday March 29 at 10:30 PST.  Within two hours of the first “report” of incidents, there were over 38,000 visits to the X24 Europe website from more than 89 countries, and responses in over 40 different languages.

The purpose of the X24 Europe Exercise is to focus on the exchange of actionable real-time information and build partner organizations’ awareness regarding response to simulated humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) crises in the European theater.

This scenario engages participants in multiple fora including Facebook, Twitter, Chat rooms, Crowd maps, and on site at numerous locations including the San Diego State University's Immersive Visualization Center, which is where I sit now, hosting a diverse team on site.  These media “come as they are,” meaning they are both cost effective and realistic instruments of collaborative sense-making and resource sharing. Also meaning they suffer known and unknown short-comings of these systems. Shortly after midnight on March 30, the Twitter account for X24 Europe had reached its maximum capacity. SDSU Professor Eric Frost is well-known to a growing community that has clearly reached a tipping point in a multi-decade effort to improve real-time assessment and response in crises, overcoming barriers of language, time and distance.

This scenario was chosen prior to the very real events that devastated Japan. In the view of many, the scenario is timely or overdue; but not surprisingly there are also posts on Facebook and Twitter criticizing the “insensitivity” of the scenario so soon after the earth-shattering events earlier this month.   Also prone to controversy is the choice of location for the scenario.  Although the scenario is fictional, the locations are real. The selection of location was a difficult call for Chris Maxin and his team, as the organizers of the scenario operate in a world too complex for simple fiction, and we now require real-world data such as geospatial tags to run through the paces of social help - communication, validation, facilitation, and importantly, rescue and relief.

Those wishing to orient themselves to the exercise can begin by viewing videos on the website that provide the academic framework for the program as articulated by scholars, practitioners and policy leaders. 

I encourage you to start with the “Crowd Sourcing 101” video and also view the video by Cat Graham of Humanity Road.

Karen Guttieri

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