ANSBACH, Germany -- Leaders, directorate heads and subject matter experts from across the U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach (USAG Ansbach), were alerted to assemble through the AtHOC mass warning notification system early Wednesday morning, August 22 to respond to an exercise scenario, a rapidly escalating situation fraught with conflicting facts and reports, garbled communications and a torrent of uncertain speculations from alarmed community members pouring in via social media and telephone.

"It's your basic garrison command team nightmare: a dangerous and unexpected high-stress situation that keeps unfolding." said USAG Ansbach, Plans and Operations Specialist Rob Goodenow, who spent more than three months, researching, scripting and fine-tuning the annual Ansbach Integrated Protection Exercise (IPE). "Just when you think you have a situation in hand, it gets bigger and more complicated."

The exercise, which involved simulating a terrorist breach on Katterbach Kaserne to plant potentially lethal toxins disguised as parcel packages and timed for release when discovered, was designed to prepare teams and individuals for similar real-world events.

The event tested more than 150 participants from every facet of the organization, first responders from the Ansbach Fire and Emergency Services Team, police and CID law enforcement professionals, Safety, Directorate of Public Works, chaplains and counseling services, network and IT professionals, USAG Ansbach Public Affairs, host nation medical personnel, FMWR, and others.

The IPE was made as realistic as possible, beginning with an intelligence build-up commencing on August 17. Each morning a new intelligence report was sent to the garrison. On August 21, the garrison convened a Threat Working Group (TWG) to discuss potential courses of action according to the intelligence at hand.

"The exercise provides an opportunity for first responders and emergency management personnel to hone their skills while checking and validating plans and procedures." said Timothy Wilcoxen, the USAG Ansbach Antiterrorism Officer. "Our plans change as threats change -- it's our job to make sure that no matter what the situation we effectively neutralize or minimize any disruption to the garrison mission and recover as quickly as possible."

Wilcoxen also pointed out the advantages of participants making mistakes during an exercise. Observers providing oversight and evaluators note when something goes wrong, when bottlenecks occur and when proper procedures are not known or followed. "The team wants to do well of course, but it's very high-stress and people can get lost in the speed of events. When errors are made - any time we find a gap or a mistake - we can write it up in the post exercise report and take steps to correct it. Then we can train until we have it ironed out." said Wilcoxen.

At the conclusion of each annual Ansbach Integrated Protection Exercise, the Installation Emergency Operations Center staff and other workforce members from throughout the garrison gather for an after-action review of exercise events and brief their findings to the garrison Commander. The review forms the basis for updating and sharpening the Ansbach emergency-management plan.

"In the event of a real-world emergency event we'll be tested; we'll be better, and we'll be ready." said USAG Ansbach Emergency Manager James Dill, after the close of the exercise Wednesday evening. "The threats evolve and so we evolve; our goal is to always be a step ahead. Our motto is 'We never stop - we can always get better."

Click the garrison Flickr photo archive link top right to see the complete photo set.

WHAT TO KNOW IN AN EMERGENCY SITUATION

While any exercise is designed to validate and test the garrison's response capability, it should also be a reminder to understand individual responsibilities in the event of an emergency situation such as an attack, natural disaster or major accident.

During emergency situations, community members will be given instructions to take protective measures. These measures may include lockdown, evacuation and shelter-in-place.

Lockdown procedures are usually implemented in a situation where authorities have determined it is safer for people to stay in their workplace, homes or other indoor locations and out of plain view.

When told to "lockdown," those not directly involved in the emergency response should remain indoors or get inside a building, lock all doors and windows, turn off all lights and stay away from doors and windows; stay low to the ground/on the floor. Set cell phones to silent and turn off any other devices that could alert someone that rooms are occupied.

Maintain these measures until either a supervisor or law enforcement official provides an indication that it all is clear. Be certain to verify the authenticity of the "all clear" message. Cooperate fully with law enforcement.

In an emergency event, authorities may direct an evacuation. In case an evacuation order is given, know the designated assembly area and go there for accountability, unless directed to assemble elsewhere.

Taking action to stay put is called "shelter in place" and might be directed if extreme weather is expected or air outside is potentially contaminated.

After ensuring coworkers or -- at home -- family member are inside, lock doors, close windows, air vents and fireplace dampers. Turn off fans, air conditioning and forced air heating systems. Gather your emergency kit and supplies, and move everyone to an interior room with no or as few windows as possible. Seal all windows, doors and air vents with plastic sheeting and duct tape. If you've planned ahead, the material is already cut to size and stored in the interior room for easy access.

Continue to monitor the situation via TV, radio or internet for official news and instructions. Report in or contact others, if possible, for personnel accountability.

September is National Preparedness Month! Garrison websites and Facebook page will be focusing during the month on how to stay best prepared for an emergency, posting tips and advice from experts and emergency management professionals.

ABOUT THE U.S. ARMY COMMUNITY IN ANSBACH

The U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach (USAG Ansbach) Military Community is located in the Franconian region of Bavaria and is spread across six sites and nine kasernes dispersed around the city of Ansbach and the village of Illesheim: Barton Barracks, Bismarck Kaserne, Bleidorn Kaserne, Franken Kaserne, Katterbach Kaserne, Oberdachstetten Training Area, Shipton Kaserne, Storck Barracks, and Urlas Kaserne. Today, Ansbach is the home of the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade (12th CAB), the community's largest tenant unit. USAG Ansbach continues its mission of streamlining base support operations management, allowing tactical commanders to concentrate on their essential training and missions. The garrison takes pride in its support to more than 6,000 Soldiers, civilians and family members working and living within the USAG Ansbach area. To learn more about the people and facilities of the U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach (USAG Ansbach) and the people they support in Ansbach, Katterbach and Illesheim, visit the community website at http://ansbach.army.mil