Fort Riley proves readiness for emergencies
July 13, 2012
FORT RILEY, Kan. -- Should a crisis or attack befall Fort Riley, those who live, work and visit the installation would be the primary concern of the 1st Infantry Division, Mission Support Element, U.S. Army Garrison, units and community partners as the post worked to return to normal operations.
That ideal was proven successful June 27 to 28 when the installation conducted the Fort Riley Regional Full-Scale Protection Exercise -- a thorough test of all of the post's emergency response procedures involving more than 700 personnel on the installation and nearly 20 partner organizations from the Central Flint Hills Region.
"We live in an unpredictable world that requires us to be ready to respond to any number of events at a moment's notice. At Fort Riley, we conduct exercises regularly to refine our procedures and ensure that we have the right people and plans in place to successfully address and manage any crisis, whether natural or otherwise," said Brig. Gen. Donald MacWillie, senior commander, Fort Riley.
Two extreme scenarios -- a helicopter crash and subsequent outbreak of a prairie fire June 27 and a tornado June 28 -- put the installation's ability to respond to a crisis to the ultimate test in an simulation that required 50 injured role players and extensive simulated damage to Fort Riley and surrounding communities.
Many facets of the post supported the exercise from different locations across the installation. Five command and control nodes activated to exercise approved training objectives from primary and secondary locations: the Incident Command Post, Emergency Operations Center, Press Information Center, Family Assistance Center and the Casualty Assistance Center.
The Hospital Command Center also was in play to facilitate medical evacuations to on- and off-post treatment centers; meanwhile, the American Red Cross conducted a blood drive at Grimes Hall.
MacWillie said the installation performed superbly during a very challenging exercise and walked away with a wealth of lessons-learned that will help Fort Riley build and improve its response plans even further in the coming years.
Absolutely no weaknesses were identified during the exercise, MacWillie said, but he named coordination with community partners and communication as areas to focus on during future exercises.
Every year, the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security facilitates several severe weather table top exercises and one full-scale protection exercise -- building challenging simulations that vary from year to year to keep Fort Riley on top of its game and ready for the worst-case-scenario.
The exercise allowed Fort Riley to utilize a number of mutual-aid agreements, enabling information to be shared across the National Incident Management System as outside partners worked with Fort Riley to care for simulated injured, dead and displaced role players.
Eighteen observer-controllers were placed throughout the installation to handle the assessment process. They held Fort Riley to organized goals and standards of the U.S. Army Installation Management Command.
Garrison Commander William Clark called the exercise a "job well done," and noted that, although the first day of the exercise was a challenge, it was a good learning day that drove the installation into the second exercise with more confidence.
There is room to improve, Clark said, but Fort Riley is prepared to work with regional partners to effectively respond to a catastrophe and will keep up the continuous cycle of exercises to maintain readiness.
"It took a lot of team members to pull off an exercise of this magnitude," he said. "Over the past six months, what we have done as far as putting together an exercise … is absolutely incredible. I've never seen it done like this in my 28 years (in the Army)."
MacWillie emphasized that great care was taken during the exercise to protect the safety and security of those at Fort Riley -- a top concern during the exercise just as it would be during a real-life disaster on the installation.
"Following this exercise, I am confident that together with our partners in the surrounding communities, we can and will respond to emergency situations with the goal of providing a return to routine operations as soon as possible," he said.
A formal after action review is scheduled for 3 p.m. July 25.