FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- When disaster strikes, Fort Rucker's partnerships with local agencies and the surrounding communities help ensure a quick response that helps save lives.

The installation tested that response with an exercise near Skelly Stagefield May 22 that simulated a downed aircraft with both military and civilian casualties, and involved multiple agencies from the surrounding communities, including the Fort Rucker Directorate of Public Safety, the U.S. Army Air Ambulance Detachment (Flatiron), the Coffee County Emergency Management Agency, Medical Center Enterprise, the Coffee County Sheriff's Office and more, all in an effort to strengthen the relationships with the surrounding communities, according to Willie Worsham, Fort Rucker emergency manager.

"This is a good exercise because we strengthen the relationships with our communities -- making one community effort to make sure that all of our assets are taken care of, so we can respond to any kind of emergency on or off the installation," said Worsham. "With all of our (agreements), we're able to do that with our sister agencies outside of the installation."

For this particular exercise, the scenario involved a downed aircraft that caught fire, requiring the Fort Rucker Fire Department to respond to extinguish the fire and pull a simulated survivor from the wreckage. After rescuing the survivor, the firefighters on site provided immediate triage while waiting for emergency medical services to arrive.

At that point, Flatiron was dispatched and arrived on the scene to airlift the patient, and Coffee County EMA responded to take care of simulated civilian casualties.

The exercise allowed local agencies to be able to test their response times, as well as to test their ability to facilitate casualties in the event of an actual disaster, which Grant Lyon, Coffee County EMA deputy director, said is important when it comes to saving lives.

"If we've got a big incident going on, we have to be able to work with local agencies to get support here to address that incident," said Lyon. "We have emergency medical services in play, as well as Medical Center Enterprise, our local hospital, so, they're having a chance to deal with patients, because in an instance like this we would have patients who need treatment and transport."

The exercise also gave the medical center the opportunity to test out their mass casualty response, said Liz James, Medical Center Enterprise facilities director and safety officer.

"We want to make sure that we have the availability and the disposal for such incidents and accidents," she said. "It's very important that we have this communication and understanding of what our needs our and our abilities are to be able to take care of each other and the community."

It's that understanding that makes exercises between the various agencies within the community necessary, said Lyon.

"This gives us a chance to work with our local agencies and work with Fort Rucker, and we appreciate them letting us play in this because this is a big exercise," he said. "It allows us to test the local agencies' response efforts and test their preparedness efforts, and we can get back together with them to figure out ways to make our communities better.

"(A disaster like this) could happen at any point or any time to anybody -- it's not just Fort Rucker," the Coffee County EMA deputy director continued. "The biggest things that we stress are the partnerships that we have with all of the communities around here -- we work so well together."