Exercise builds community cohesion with a boom
Mark Cedarstaff holds Sophie Evett while Rachael Evett is instructed by Fort Rucker fireman Vincent Guistina to go to a safe area after being simulated disinfected by the mass decontamination trailer during a disaster preparation exercise April 24.

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (May 2, 2013) -- About 10 counties from the surrounding area participated in a disaster preparation exercise April 24 at the Fort Rucker Fire and Prevention training grounds, which ended in an explosive fashion.

Fort Rucker hosted the event, lending the installation's facilities to local emergency responders, as well as participating in the hazardous material portion of the exercise to practice preparedness measures and gain some knowledge with the process, according to Fort Rucker Fire Chief Jay Evett, adding that the day's training was twofold.

"What we are doing is assisting our community partners -- putting faces with names, developing a better relationship. The other part is that we get to demonstrate a new capability we have with our mass decontamination trailer," he said.

"We can showcase [the mass decontamination trailer] to our partners this way. In case they ever need us, they can activate the mutual aid agreement and we can assist them," he continued.

The exercise was conducted much like post all-hazards, which was held in March. A scenario was set in place and the responders had to take appropriate action accordingly.

The circumstances that emergency responders were presented was a terrorist wrecked a tanker trunk and it was leaking, causing a hazardous chemical situation that caused civilian casualties -- who were volunteer victims that helped with the exercise.

With the threat identiļ¬ed, Dothan, as the regional response team, asked for assistance with the HAZMAT situation, and Rucker responded and supported the operation with the decontamination vehicle.

Rucker began the process of bringing in the walking victims and putting them through the decontamination truck.

Later in the scenario, during the investigation of the truck, an explosive device was found, which was actively engaged and detonated by a robot from the Dothan Bomb Squad.

For exercise purposes, the location was not on Fort Rucker, according to officials.

"The regional exercise took place in 'Central City,' a place off Fort Rucker but near enough where if an emergency happened the installation could respond," said the fire chief. "This way it could activate the mutual aid agreement, and its capabilities could be tested and simulated."

The need to get familiar with the outside counties and surrounding areas, according to Fort Rucker Deputy Fire Chief Lonny Keen, is so all units can work better together.

"It is good to do training with them so they can see our capabilities, we can see their capabilities and we can all work together better. We want to form a communication line, we don't want there to be any barriers in case they ever need our help or if we ever need theirs," he said. "It gets us talking together and working through issues together."

The training was also a good way to fully test out the firefighter's new asset.

"The vehicle does not go through a full scare exercise often, so the volunteers as well as the firemen were excited to get it up and going," said Keen.

This is the first year Fort Rucker has participated in the regional exercise.

"They asked us if they could hold it here, but by agreeing it allowed us to participate as well," said Evett. "We have a controlled environment here, so it is great for them and us. It facilitates a good working environment for the future, as well. I am really excited that we got to host and participate in it."

Rachael Evett, a volunteer who went through the decontamination, said she understands the importance of having the full scale exercise.

"I can see how someone would be frightened to have to strip down to nothing and go through a machine that will hopefully save you. I did feel safe, though, and we were given great instructions," she said. "I am glad we have these capacities. I think it makes the community safer having this safety resource."

According to the deputy fire chief, the regional exercise was a success and Fort Rucker Fire and Prevention gained some "awesome" training out of the process.

"It tested our readiness. We learned from the all-hazards exercise and today we proved that we are improving and we opened up valuable communication with our community partners," he said.

Page last updated Thu May 2nd, 2013 at 12:57