Nearly a year after the "1,000 year" flood wreaked havoc across the Midlands, civic and military emergency managers from across South Carolina met at the South Carolina Emergency Management Division in West Columbia to hold a seminar to begin planning for the next disaster.
Officials praised the post's response to the flooding as representatives from Fort Jackson, Shaw Air Force Base, and Navy and Marine bases throughout South Carolina met with their civilian counterparts at the seminar to build the rapport needed to react quickly to any emergency.
"The idea behind this seminar is to give government and military authorities the opportunity to discuss how military and local plans are integrated during responses to disasters and emergencies such as the historic flood event that affected South Carolina in October last year," said Kim Stenson, director of the South Carolina Emergency Management Division in a press release. "Such an event can affect the entire state, including military installations, transportation assets and military personnel and their families."
Maj. Gen. Greg Batts, the second highest-ranking officer in the South Carolina National Guard and senior leader at the seminar, lauded the groundwork laid in these types of seminars as being a major reason South Carolina was able to respond quickly to last year's flood.
"Everyone understood the capabilities we bring to bear," he said.
The more training conducted with partnering agencies helps tremendously during emergencies.
"We have to continually identify who we are partnered with in these situations; who are those that you need to be maintaining relationships with," said Brig. Gen. Roy McCarty, Assistant Adjutant General of South Carolina, responsible for the state's readiness. "We had an opportunity last year early in the year to conduct a very large scale exercise where we had about 3,000 military personnel -- not only from South Carolina, but from the federal side as well -- along with about 5,000 civilian volunteers who came to support that exercise."
"What we found in the exercise preparing for the event" were the same people the state worked with during the flood, he added.
In late 2014 to early 2015, exercises laid the groundwork for the relationships that were "brought to bear" during the flooding, Batts said.
Fort Jackson's efforts to help the community were praised by Col. William Connor, the State Emergency Preparedness Officer for South Carolina during the seminar. Connor and his organization "focus the federal side" of state disaster relief by coordinating with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
During the floods last year Fort Jackson's previous commander, Maj. Gen. Roger Cloutier, utilized immediate response authority under Department of Defense Directive 3025.18 to send boats to civic authorities to help in flood relief.
"Maj. Gen. Cloutier made the decision as he watched bolt cutters cut locks, we got the boats out, got them used to save lives; to save property," Connor said. "Those assets were used for 72 hours."
DODD 3025.18 outlines how the military can respond to domestic emergencies. Immediate response authority is for when there are imminently serious conditions and a request from civil authorities has been received; when there is no time to receive approval from higher authorities. The commander must immediately notify the chain of command and reassess the support within 72 hours.
Representing Fort Jackson at the seminar were Scottie Thomas, chief of the post's protection division, and Ramon Domenech, post Emergency Manager. Domenech recently replaced R.J. Frazier, Fort Jackson's long time emergency manager.
"Establishing relationships with other emergency management agencies such as city, county and State is critical to the success of emergency response operations at all levels," Domenech said.
Fort Jackson and its partners routinely hold "mutually beneficial" training events to test responses in case of emergencies, he said.