Watervliet builds great cannons, better relationships
August 16, 2012
- Local community first responders use the Arsenal as a training resource.
- It takes a community to respond to a crisis, but first comes relationship building.
WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. -- It is no secret that Watervliet builds the best cannons in the world, but what the Arsenal has been building with the local community lately may be just as strong as the steel used in gun tubes -- it's called relationships.
The month of August is traditionally a slow period at the Arsenal because that is when a significant number of workers take leave during the annual shutdown of manufacturing operations. But for the Arsenal's emergency service teams, who provide 24-hour, seven-day-a-week protection to the Arsenal, there was no such thing as a shutdown.
In a series of back-to-back training events this month, the Arsenal firefighters, with the support of the Arsenal's law enforcement team, reached out to local first responders, as well as to New York State's Office of Fire Prevention and Control, to conduct realistic, tough training.
The first exercise was conducted August 9 and involved the use of a training aide that is so unique that there are only eight in the world said Dan Baker, the program director of New York State's Office of Fire Prevention and Control.
"Given all the fuel trucks on the road today, responding to an emergency involving a spill from a truck carrying ethanol is a very real-world scenario and one that could impact every community in New York," Baker said. "Therefore, New York State's Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services made a major investment in purchasing a fuel truck training aid to assist community first responder teams in the use of foam to put out a hazardous material fire."
Arsenal's Fire Chief John Whipple said that first responders from the communities of Albany, West Albany, Troy, Watervliet, Selkirk, and Schuyler Heights joined the Arsenal in this one-of-a-kind training.
"There is no other training aide that equals what New York State has provided today," Whipple said in regards to the August 9 training. "In addition to being a great training aid, this training was funded by New York State's Office of Fire Prevention and Control."
Whipple said that training with foam is rare due to its cost, lack of skills that are required to apply the foam, and the environmental considerations required prior to using foam. And so, when this rare opportunity for a realistic training aide to be provided with all costs associated with running the device paid for, it was a definite win-win situation for the Arsenal and for the local community.
The City of Watervliet Fire Chief Scott Skinner agreed that this type of training is very expensive and therefore, his firefighters don't get the opportunity to train with foam as much as they would like to.
But more important than simply training his team on how to respond to a fuel fire, Skinner said the value of working as a team with the Arsenal and other local emergency response teams cannot be measured or underestimated.
"Responding to a major fuel fire is a real threat to the City of Watervliet and one that we would need the support of the Arsenal and other community response teams," Skinner said. "And so, the building of relationships is critical to ensure that a rapid and complete response effort saves lives and property."
The training for the fuel spill fire included such training areas as foam calculation, predicting downwind hazard areas, foam application, and immediate actions to solve problems.
Whereas the August 9 exercise was conducted via a round-robin process, where firefighting teams rotated through various training stations, the exercise conducted August 14 was scenario-based and one that included activating the Arsenal's alert system.
The exercise tested and evaluated the Arsenal's capability to respond to a simulated hazardous material incident caused by a disgruntled worker at the Arsenal's waste treatment plant. As part of this exercise, a role player was medically treated due to his simulated injuries, as well as a complete decontamination of all first responders who worked in the hot zone.
A communications tool called the "Giant Voice" was used during the exercise to communicate quickly and widely throughout the Arsenal. The Giant Voice is a loud-speaker system that can transmit information and guidance from one end of the Arsenal to the other end.
According to Whipple, the force protection exercise enabled the command to exercise Arsenal emergency response units, from firefighters to law enforcement, in a real-time scenario. The exercise also involved a number of first responders and equipment from the municipalities of Albany, Watervliet, West Albany, Elsmere, and from the Town of Colonie.
How valuable was this training?
"We don't have an organic capability to respond to a hazardous material incident, such as what we exercised here today," Skinner said. "Nevertheless, we still need to know what capability resides at the Arsenal and at other communities, as well as the techniques and procedures they apply when responding to a hazardous material incident, so that we can use those capabilities effectively in the City."
So, after the fire hoses were rolled up, chemical training suits stowed, media departed, and firefighters back in their stations, there was still a sense of unfinished business in the air.
"Despite the great training and new relationships developed this month, our work is not done," Whipple said. "Protecting the Arsenal workforce and the community requires that we train every day, as well as to work hard to expand our relationships with local community and with the New York State emergency response teams."
The Watervliet Arsenal has a Memorandum of Agreement with a number of local communities to provide and receive mutual emergency service support.
The Watervliet Arsenal (pronounced water-vleet") is an Army-owned-and-operated manufacturing facility located in Watervliet, New York. The Arsenal is the oldest, continuously active arsenal in the United States, having begun operations during the War of 1812.
Today's Arsenal is relied upon by U.S. and foreign militaries to produce the most advanced, high tech, high powered weaponry for cannon, howitzer, and mortar systems. This National Historic Registered Landmark has an annual economic benefit to the local community in excess of $100 million.