All Hazards: U.S., host nation first responders train to be prepared
October 9, 2013
WIESBADEN, Germany - Hundreds of U.S. and host nation first responders swarmed a Wiesbaden school on Sept. 28 in response to a hostage situation and reports of explosions at the scene.
Thankfully, the annual training event was part of a fictional scenario designed to put emergency reponse procedures to the test.
"Today, we got to rehearse all facets of a possible emergency," said Col. David Carstens, U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden commander. "We rehearsed the element of an active shooter at a school, followed by an improvised explosive device attack on first responders.
"This is about readiness -- and working together is a huge part of readiness in the garrison," said Carstens, explaining that every opportunity to streamline and improve the way U.S. military and host nation firefighters, law enforcement officials, paramedics and others work together during emergency situations is vitally important.
"Today our primary objective was to train the cooperation between the U.S. Forces and the host nation fire departments and emergency services," said Christian Füllert, Wiesbaden's chief fire inspector and all hazards exercise event coordinator.
Calling it a realistic training scenario that provided first responders with a series of events that could eventually occur during an emergency situation -- in this case those responding were confronted with an "explosion" which "critically injured" a number of those engaged -- Füllert said, "The most challenging thing was that we had a relatively large area with people spread out over the entire area.
"This is one of the reasons that we do these exercises each year -- so that the Americans and our forces can react together," said Füllert.
The exercise which included about 250 host nation firefighters, Polizei, medical personnel and a Bundeswehr liaison officer, also involved about 200 U.S. military community Soldiers and civilian personnel.
Several young volunteers from Wiesbaden Middle School were among the role players adding realism to the scenario involving the school.
"This was a real good bonding experience," said Dr. Susan Hargis, Wiesbaden Middle School principal. "I just feel so much better at the school because everything was so well organized.
Everyone -- both the parents and students -- told me that they feel overwhelmingly safer thanks to the students having volunteered to take part and seeing how these kinds of things are organized."
"Here's what made the biggest impression on me today -- the outstanding partnership of the host nation first responders, the fantastic cooperation of the Polizei forces, medical personnel and also with our own medical clinic," said Carstens.
Calling the exercise a success, the commander added that there are always areas where things can be improved. "You can never do well enough when it comes to communication. That's why we do these exercises."
"This is also a reminder that while there is not a threat today, there could be one tomorrow," he said. "I ask all community members to always be aware. If you see something that is out of place -- report it."