By Lucy Engebretsen, Hawthorne Army DepotMay 6, 2013
HAWTHORNE, Nev.-- When tragedy strikes, are you prepared? Preparation is the key for emergency responders everywhere. All those involved in the emergency response to the recent training incident at the Hawthorne Army Depot (HWAD) have been praised for their quick thinking and swift actions. Without them and their dedication to duty, more lives would have been lost.
Planning scenarios and executing full-scale exercises to possible tragedies allow Mineral County emergency responders to prepare, identify shortfalls and indentify resources. These are crucial components to having a well-prepared joint emergency response when the unthinkable happens.
On Tuesday, April 23, Lt. Col. Short, commander at HWAD, opened a tabletop drill for emergency planning for Mineral County and addressed the participants. His welcoming remarks were, "I want to thank all of you for supporting this exercise. We have representation from local and state levels -- first responders as well as planners and subject matter experts. We've picked a realistic scenario and this tabletop is intended to look at our various plans to make sure we are synchronized before we execute a full scale exercise later this fall. It is important that we really look hard at our response plans to find any holes and walk away with a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities."
Tim Cary, exercise officer from Nevada Division of Emergency Management (NDEM), facilitated the training exercise.
Cary said, "As state exercise officer, I am the person responsible that exercise programs for emergency management throughout the state are successful."
His guidance throughout the exercise was greatly appreciated by all in attendance.
Michael Heidemann, training officer/EMS coordinator for SOC Nevada LLC, developed the mass casualty incident scenario that drove the discussion on Tuesday. Heidemann stated the inspiration came from Short to conduct a mutual aid exercise between the county, depot and Walker River Paiute Tribe.
Homeland Security development guidelines were used by Heidemann in preparing the exercise.
"The main purpose of the exercise was to define roles, responsibilities and capabilities for all Mineral County first responders in the event of an incident in the town of Schurz," said Heidemann.
HWAD government and SOC Nevada staff met earlier to determine the participants of the exercise. Mineral County participants were invited through the Local Emergency Planning Committee. Personal invitations were extended to Tribal Chairman, Lorren Sammaripa, and tribal fire/EMS representative, Tad Williams.
Heidemann met with Chris Smith, Chief of NDEM at the State of Nevada Department of Public Safety, in Carson City on April 4 where the scenario was put on national radar. In addition to the support provided for the tabletop, NDEM will support the full-scale exercise tentatively scheduled for the fall.
Both exercises have been placed in the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program. The exercise series includes planning, tabletop exercise, participant feedback, full-scale exercise, after action reports and executive summary, and ensures that Mineral County is compliant with state and federal grant requirements. The executive summary is submitted to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA.) A press release for public notification will be provided to the media prior to the full-scale exercise.
SOC Nevada Fire Chief Rob Mathias applauded the guidance from NDEM and the participants' involvement.
"I was really excited to see the participation from the different agencies and the positive interaction and interest during the moderated exercise. I am a firm believer that training with the different agencies prepares each agency to respond and work with each other with successful and positive outcomes and it becomes second nature to the responders" said Mathias.
This was also an opportunity for Lt. Col. Short to recognize some of the responders who assisted with the Marine training incident in March. Previously, Brig. Gen. Kevin O'Connell, commander of the Joint Munitions Command, had personally thanked the first responders from SOC Nevada when he visited HWAD following the incident.
Short presented certificates to the Mineral County Sheriff's Office, Mineral County Volunteer Fire Department, and Nevada Division of Emergency Management.
"I just want to take a moment to thank all those who played a part in responding to the tragic training incident which occurred on 18 March and cost the lives of seven Marines. Based on reports that I have seen, at all levels, the response was excellent - SOC emergency services as well as the county. You have my thanks. The planning and preparation that you do ensures that we will continue to be prepared, whatever the future holds," said Short.