By Al Macks, Presidio of Monterey Public Affairs June 7, 2013
PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. - Given the recent devastation in Oklahoma, it is not difficult to imagine a major earthquake, people displaced, casualties, communications down, roads disabled and people in dire need of immediate medical treatment.
Golden Guardian is California's annual statewide exercise series that helps prepare organizations to respond to such events. This year, local agencies participated in the exercise on the former Fort Ord May 15.
Some of the local agencies that participated were Presidio of Monterey Police Department, Monterey County Sheriff Mobile Field Force and Monterey County Fire Department.
The exercise situation was based on the magnitude 7.7 to 7.9 earthquake that occurred in 1906 along the San Andreas Fault. About 3,000 people died in the earthquake and aftermath fires that devastated San Francisco.
"The exercise was designed to test and validate portions of the Installation Protection Plan (and also) identify operational strengths and weaknesses in order to strengthen and sustain interoperability between the military Monterey County and local community emergency managers and first responders … doing unified command at the former Fort Ord," said Renville Lascelles, director of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security.
It was also designed to prepare the Presidio's Marine Corps Detachment Urban Search and Rescue Team in "communications, deployment, incident command and rescue techniques training while using simulated injuries and dummies," explained Stewart Roth, City of Monterey Fire Department division chief.
He also said the skills required them to work with search-and-rescue dogs, while search a building, conducting heavy lifting and beaching for a trapped person.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency website, search-and-rescue dogs play a critical role during structural collapse incidents. The canines locate survivors, using their "incredible sense of smell to detect live human scent, even from a survivor buried deep in rubble."
The scenario simulated an earthquake that impacted the local area, said Capt. Daniel G. Bowers, operations officer and the company commander of the Presidio's Marine Corps Detachment.
The simulation directed that the earthquake caused rubble as well as partially collapsed structures containing live casualties with varying injuries, including compound fractures, cosmetic wounds and unconsciousness.
Bowers also said that in such a situation some of the people would not be able to respond -- "not every injured person is going to be able to say, 'Here I am.'" -- which is where working with search dogs gave Marines an advantage to locate injured persons.
He said that the dogs were "an aspect to the training we had not seen before, but Marines and the handlers worked well together."
Bowers said he also appreciated working with California Medical Detachment's Maj. Matthew Douglas and the rest of the medical staff during the training. "We quickly worked out a casualty-collection point, and his personnel went right to triaging casualties the Marines were carrying in."
The training was a good example of military and civilian cooperating and coordinating, said Douglas, staff physician assistant at the Presidio of Monterey Health Clinic, adding that coordinating with outside organizations "is not something that we think about every day."
Bowers explained that through excellent training with Stewart Roth, division chief at the City of Monterey Fire Department, and other members of the Monterey County Search and Rescue Team, they successfully "navigated the training requirements and are now a capable asset." He said that eight Marines who are "Type-3" trained, Bowers said.
Type-3 trained means the Marines can conduct safe and effective search and rescue operations at structure collapse incidents involving the collapse or failure of light-frame construction, according to California Emergency Management Agency website.
"If we're deployed," he said, "we may only need the fully trained Marines to conduct operations."
However, Bowers said, Marines with less training can be used as litter bearers or they can pull ropes or help lift rubble -- "anything to help save lives."
Bowers explained that the specialized aspects of search and rescue would be done only by the trained Marines.
"If I put someone into those types of situations who hasn't received proper training, it may result in a rescuer becoming a casualty themselves and compromising the capability of the entire team.
"In total we have about 50 to 60 Marines we can use at any given time for search-and-rescue operations, all of whom have a level of experience in hands-on-equipment training," said Bowers.
The training has often been through monthly instruction with POM Fire and Emergency Services Chief Marshall Fiedler and his personnel, who the Marines will likely assist in the military housing areas should a catastrophic event occur, said Bowers.
Marines at the Presidio usually have a couple months prior to beginning language classes, during which they are studying several hours each day of language preparation, Bowers said, adding that the young Marines also need to get out and "take a break now and then, so getting them into field gear once a month is good for them, and the community."