BUTLERVILLE, Ind., March 14, 2010 -- Muscatatuck Urban Training Center was filled with fire and smoke for the Army North Homeland Emergency Response exercise Vibrant Response 11.1, taking place at the southern Indiana facility through March 20.

Controlled fire and smoke, strategically placed throughout the facility, add to the illusion of the aftermath of a nuclear explosion. But what does an emergency response look like after such a catastrophe' That's what this exercise was created to find out and coordinate.

Walking around the collapsed parking garage built specifically for training, the voices of the role-players grabbed the attention of their rescuers. The role players did their job well, begging for medical attention, food and water from the Soldiers and Airmen dressed in their chemical retardant suits. Some role players begged the military contingent to rescue their friends and family.

The Soldiers and Airmen were part of the Colorado National Guard Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Enhanced Response Force Package, or CERFP, Decontamination Unit. It 's a mixed Air and Army Guard unit in charge of the medical well-being of victims pulled from the rubble of the collapsed parking garage.

"This training is always worthwhile," said Maj. Holger Peters, a biological-environmental engineer with the unit. "We are put through different scenarios as we train. Even if we have done this kind of training before, the different role-players and training sites create an entirely different feel to what we do."

The CERFP is responsible for caring for the victims from beginning to end. First, the unit performs a search and recovery in order to find victims and get them to the treatment site. This task is carried out by personnel whose entire job relies on knowing how to find people who may be trapped and the tools needed to get them out.

The victims are then walked or transported to a row of medical tents which are placed end to end and tied together to create one long medical station. After being quickly signed in and accounted for, the victims are decontaminated.

This step is very important because no matter what they may be suffering from physically, the chances of survival decrease with every minute lost or waiting.

The next stop is triage where medical professionals categorize the victims by medical need. Finally, they are taken to the medical section for treatment of their wounds.

An entire trip through the tent takes no more than five minutes as quick response can save lives. It's a task that Peters takes very seriously.

"We are always further refining our process in order to get better at what we do," Peters explained. "Muscatatuck has provided an incredibly realistic training environment and we are taking advantage of that all we can to help get better with what we do."

Vibrant Response 11.1 will continue throughout the week of March 14-19, giving National Guard and federal forces from around the country the chance to improve their skills.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16