FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- Imagine a category 4 hurricane approaching the southern coast of Florida: Where will it go? What damage will it do? A program, used by U.S. Army North, will help plan, train and operate for those types of scenarios.

With today's technology, it allows military units to throw away old ways of hypothetical questions and unrealistic training scenarios based on unrealistic intelligence. The programs used in today's disaster response scenarios are designed to help Army North's mission in planning and aiding local civilian authorities during a real disaster response.

The program has been used in previous exercises conducted by Army North, said Maj. Nathaniel Durant, operations officer, Simulation Division, U.S. Army North,

"This system has been in place since 2009 for our Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear response force exercises," he said. "This year, we will use this capability for the upcoming Hurricane Rehearsal of Concept exercise as well as our other exercises."

Instead of just talking through processes that will happen during a real hurricane, Army North is able to position assets on the virtual map, place simulated units on the ground, gather simulated reports from units and see current damage based on hurricane forced winds in a real-time simulation. Once statistics and area population are input, scenario moderators are then able to change the path of the hurricane.

Additionally, they can change other variables, such as adding flooding to the mix so responders have the opportunity to practice reacting to unscheduled changes. This helps to make the training more realistic and to prepare the responders for a variety of challenges.

"Army North's ability to train leaders and their staffs in local, regional, national and joint operations is critical during exercises," said Maj. Armando Riveron, operations simulation officer, U.S. Army North. "This tool has proven to be a critical asset in pulling updated and relevant geospatial data and information on maps and is used to support other real world missions. "