Practice exercises help installation prepare for disaster
March 22, 2013
By Jaon Vasey
Fort Huachuca, AZ. - The wail of sirens sounds out as Fort Huachuca firefighters respond to the call. Winds fan the flames of a fast-moving wildfire as smoke fills the air. A fire is racing toward Fort Huachuca's cantonment area and building evacuation gets underway. Everyone knows what to do, and Fort Huachuca and community emergency personnel respond as one, like a well-oiled machine.
Simultaneously, communication is almost instantaneous. Through Fort Huachuca's Facebook page, news releases, information hotline (538.4636) and other emergency information channels, the public, area media, local businesses and nearby agencies are quickly notified and kept apprised of the situation. People share the installation's Facebook posts and electronic news releases with their Facebook contacts, and area phones ring frenetically.
Luckily, the wind changes direction and helps the firefighters, who quickly get the fire under control.
Within a few hours, catastrophe is averted, and slowly things return to normal.
School shootings, hostages, multi-vehicle accidents, severe thunderstorms and more -- in this ever-changing world, natural and manmade catastrophic events happen almost daily. Fort Huachuca and the local community are susceptible to an array of events and incidents that could impact military operations, civil activities, critical infrastructure and area personnel.
Commanders and leaders at all levels must seize the opportunity to consult with stakeholders, time permitting, make the necessary assumptions, determine acceptable risk and the best course of action in responding to an event before making their decision. Once the decision is made, clear and concise objectives and priorities must be established and actions initiated to ensure critical mission-essential functions are maintained or restored.
Fort Huachuca and community leadership consider saving lives, limiting human suffering, mitigating the loss of infrastructure, and the protection of property and the environment are of utmost importance.
During times of potential disaster, it is critical for installation personnel and community partners to come together as a team, ready for effective response, knowing and executing individual roles as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
In order to help hone response skills, U.S. Army Garrison, Fort Huachuca, will host a community table top exercise, or TTX, at Thunder Mountain Activity Centre on Tuesday morning to develop, support and sustain an effective response program to counter any threat to the installation. Federal, state, county and local agencies and non-governmental agencies will participate.
"The TTX directly supports the senior commanders' vision of an agile and responsive community and enhances installation readiness," said Col. Dan McFarland, garrison commander, in the operational order for the coming exercise.
"It is my intent to ensure the garrison and partner organizations understand the role their organizations have in our response to, support of and recovery from natural, man-made and technological catastrophic events that could occur on Fort Huachuca, our surrounding area or within the joint operational area as designated by commander, [U.S. Northern Command].
"I consider this an enduring operation; success is achieved when we have implemented steps to mitigate risk, respond to and recover from major events," McFarland added.
The Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security, or DPTMS, has developed plausible holistic training scenarios that highlight challenges Fort Huachuca could face when confronted with an event which requires a uniformed response.
These created training events, designed to engage senior leaders in open and frank discussion, help the installation identify strengths, weaknesses and ability to effectively address the challenges during an actual emergency. The training also supports Homeland Security.
Under the scenario-driven TTX, emergency support agencies and those involved in Homeland Security discuss their organizations' roles, capabilities, resources and level of support their organizations can offer during an emergency situation on- or off-post.
The TTX will be scenario-driven with up to three events driving the exchange of ideas between senior leaders of partner units and stakeholders.
After the event, based on its outcome, agencies will draw up a TTX corrective action plan to identify shortcomings. These will determine needed follow-on training to enhance response effectiveness in the event of an actual incident.
Exercises such as a TTX enhance the installation's ability to increase preparedness, responsiveness and recovery from disasters and major events that have a significant impact on the area community. Additionally, these exercises convey to the community Fort Huachuca's efforts and commitment to continue to provide a safe and secure environment for the Soldiers, their Families, the civilian workforce and the community.