By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterJune 15, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Emergency situations can quickly go from bad to worse, and Fort Rucker put its first responders and emergency services personnel to the test with a scenario that kept officials on their toes.
The installation held its annual all-hazards exercise June 7 with an ever-changing scenario that involved a stolen vehicle, active shooter and fuel leak to test Fort Rucker and surrounding communities' response to an emergency situation, according to Willie Worsham, Fort Rucker emergency manager.
During this scenario, there was a fuel tanker that was delivering fuel to the Triangle Express on the corner of Farrell and Artillery Road, said Worsham. As the driver went inside the building, the tanker was stolen and headed toward Lowe Army Heliport via Farrell Road.
The scenario had the truck then crash on the bridge heading to Lowe, followed by a van approaching the downed tanker. As the van approached, the driver of the stolen tanker opened fire on the van and its five occupants, changing the scenario from a stolen vehicle to an active shooter scenario.
"With this scenario, we were testing the response capability of our [Directorate of Public Safety] and triage of our [emergency medical service] people," said the emergency manager. "We needed to ensure that the installation is prepared to handle any type of situation.
"The major flavor recently for terrorists is to use a [vehicle-borne improvise explosive device], or use a vehicle to crash into people or cause harm, so we were trying to test our capability to deal with that," he added.
The initial responders for the scenario were Fort Rucker police department members, but the scenario included not only DPS and EMS, but the Directorate of Public Works, as well as outside agencies, such as Enterprise Medical Center and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Marcel Dumais, Fort Rucker police chief, said the training is integral to keep the installation's officers adapting to changing situations.
"The initial call came across to us as a stolen vehicle in the scenario, so we deployed what we would normally deploy to a stolen vehicle call," said the police chief. "Information came in pretty fast changing the scenario to a traffic accident, then shortly after shots fired on the scene of the traffic accident."
The changing scenario is meant to keep the officers and other first responders thinking on their feet to understand that any situation can escalate at any moment, said Worsham.
Dumais said his officers were prepared for any changes that might come their way.
"We receive in-service training every year where we cover different scenarios such as this one, so that [the officers] understand that, at any given time or day when they're working, they can go from zero to 100 very rapidly," said the police chief. "I think this training is critical and we're lucky enough to be able to do one once a year at the installation level with the full-scale exercise.
"It gives us the opportunity to respond to crisis situations in a controlled environment," he continued. "It allows our folks to hone their critical thinking skills because it started out as just a theft of a vehicle and escalated rapidly, and I think they did a good job of ramping up once they knew what was going on out there."
The exercise also allows the responders to test their standards of procedures, said Dumais. The scenario will either validate the procedures or give them the opportunity to tweak and change them if necessary.
In addition to being the first to respond to a call, all first responders, including police, fire department and EMS, need to know how to work together in situations like these, which is also what the scenario is meant to test, he added.
"Working with the fire department, EMS, off-post agencies, that all allows us to make sure that our procedures are sound in that they do what they're supposed to do for us," said Dumais. "You've got to have [that partnership]. We exercise this stuff annually, but we have monthly meetings off the installation with our local law enforcement officers just to build good relationships and good rapport with them."