A crisis actor (aka actor-patient or actor victim) is a trained actor, role player, volunteer, or other person engaged to portray a disaster victim during emergency drills to train first responders such as police, firefighters or EMS personnel. Crisis actors are used to create high-fidelity simulations of disasters in order to allow first responders to practice their skills and help emergency services organizations to prepare and train in realistic scenarios as part of full-scale disaster exercises.
Disaster training simulations
Actors take on the role of mock victims and simulate specific injuries from a disaster to add life-like realism to an emergency exercise. Theatrical makeup and cosmetics, plus rubber and latex appliances, are often used to simulate a variety of wounds or medical conditions that realistically portray victim's injuries, a practice known as medical moulage.
Actors who portray news reporters, relatives of victims, and concerned citizens are also used during drills to train emergency operations center personnel to cope with a variety of emotionally-charged demands and requests.
Conspiracy theories and defamation
In the United States, the term has been used by conspiracy theorists who claim that mass shootings and other disasters are staged, and victims and their families are being played by crisis actors in order to pass gun control laws. Conspiracy theorists' use of the term is thought to have originated in 2012, when a blog post by former professor and professional conspiracy theorist James Tracy suggested that the government could have hired an acting agency named Visionbox to help stage the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Visionbox offered dramatic training "in criminal and victim behavior" to actors intended to help "bring intense realism to simulated mass casualty incidents in public places".
Tracy also promoted a crisis actor conspiracy theory of the Boston Marathon bombing. Conspiracy theorists have falsely claimed such attacks are "false flag operations" staged by conspirators, usually government or corporate forces, in order to achieve some goal such as justifying increased government surveillance, disarmament of the population, or military action against blamed nations or groups. Crisis actors are claimed in this context to play the part of bystanders or witnesses, emergency response personnel, and (with the aid of stage makeup) wounded victims of the attack.
Advocates of the conspiracy theory include Alex Jones and outlets such as True Pundit. In April 2018, the parents of two children killed in the Sandy Hook shooting launched a lawsuit against Jones for defamation "accusing him and his website InfoWars of engaging in a campaign of 'false, cruel, and dangerous assertions'". In November 2021, Jones was found liable by default after failing to provide documents to the court and announced he would appeal the decision. In August 2022, the Heslin v. Jones jury ordered that Jones pay $4.1M in compensatory damages and $45.2M in punitive damages. During the trial, Jones admitted that the Sandy Hook shooting was "100% real," and he agreed with his own attorney that it was "absolutely irresponsible" to push falsehoods about the shooting and its victims.
- "Crisis Actors. Trained Players and Actors Making It Real". Crisis Actors. Archived from the original on 25 June 2014. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
Helping schools and first responders create realistic drills, full-scale exercises, high-fidelity simulations, and interactive 3D films.
- "Exclusive Interview with Brian Mitchell of Crisis Cast". The Mackenzie Institute. 5 March 2015. Archived from the original on 28 October 2017. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
- Berg, Alison. "Emergency responders practice for future disasters". The Deseret News. Utah. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
- Skelley, Tom. "Emergency responders prepare for the worst". Centennial Citizen. Colorado Community Media. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
- Gillett, Brian (2008). "Simulation in a Disaster Drill: Comparison of High-fidelity Simulators versus Trained Actors". Academic Emergency Medicine. 15 (11): 1144–1151. doi:10.1111/j.1553-2712.2008.00198.x. PMID 18717651.
- Michael J. Fagel (4 December 2013). Crisis Management and Emergency Planning: Preparing for Today's Challenges. CRC Press. pp. 338–. ISBN 978-1-4665-5505-1.
- Bobbie J Merica (22 November 2011). Medical Moulage: How to Make Your Simulations Come Alive. F.A. Davis. pp. 32–. ISBN 978-0-8036-2648-5.
- Saal, Mark (18 April 2014). "Moulage Provides Realism for ShakeOut Disaster Drill". govtech.com. Emergency Management. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
- McCormick Taylor (2006). Transportation Security: Guidelines for transportation emergency training exercises. Transportation Research Board. ISBN 9780309098502. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
- Charlotte J. Hiatt (1 January 2000). A Primer for Disaster Recovery Planning in an IT Environment. Idea Group Inc (IGI). pp. 228–. ISBN 978-1-878289-81-0.
- The Rise of the Crisis Actor Conspiracy Movement, retrieved 11 September 2021
- Koebler, Jason (22 February 2018). "Where the 'Crisis Actor' Conspiracy Theory Comes From". Motherboard. Vice Media. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
- Yglesias, Matthew (22 February 2018). "The Parkland conspiracy theories, explained Crisis actors? The deep state?". Vox. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
- Mele, Christopher (28 June 2016). "After Orlando Shooting, 'False Flag' and 'Crisis Actor' Conspiracy Theories Surface". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
- Wilson, Jason. "Crisis actors, deep state, false flag: the rise of conspiracy theory code words". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
- "Crisis Actors Uncovered?". Snopes. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
- Editorial. "Sandy Hook parents sue conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for defamation". Reuters. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
- Williamson, Elizabeth (15 November 2021). "Alex Jones Loses by Default in Remaining Sandy Hook Defamation Suits". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 17 November 2021.
- "Alex Jones must pay $50m for Sandy Hook hoax claim". BBC News. 5 August 2022.
- Massie, Graeme (5 August 2022). "Alex Jones ordered to pay additional $45.2m in punitive damages by Texas jury". The Independent.
- Williamson, Elizabeth (4 August 2022). "A jury said Alex Jones must pay $4 million to the parents of a boy killed at Sandy Hook". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 5 August 2022.
- "Alex Jones concedes Sandy Hook attack was '100% real'". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 3 August 2022.