By Mr. Thomas Peske (AMC)October 4, 2018
CRANE, Ind. -- A cool autumn morning filled the uplands of Southern Indiana with patches of dense fog. Army and Navy civilians rushed around Naval Support Activity Crane, carrying out their mission providing munitions readiness to American Warfighters. Their inherently dangerous work often involves energetics and explosives, and the threat of accidents always looms on the installation.
This scenario set the stage Sept. 28 as NSA Crane conducted an emergency management exercise testing its incidence response ability and efficacy coordinating with tenant commands.
The exercise scenario involved a train colliding with a vehicle transporting explosives, possibly endangering nearby office buildings.
"Today's exercise portrayed a very realistic scenario that thankfully doesn't happen all that often, but isn't unheard of," Jessica Kirkendall, Crane Army Ammunition Activity's emergency management coordinator, said. "There are very serious, life-altering consequences that occur with these types of accidents that most people don't think about because they happen so infrequently. As a result there are a fair number of near misses where vehicles try to "outrun" the train and cross the tracks first, barely avoiding a collision, or people simply disregard traffic signs and laws because they're inconvenient."
The integrated, installation-wide exercise brought CAAA together with NSA Crane emergency responders and explosive ordnance disposal. It also included other personnel operating in the area surrounding the accident site from Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division, challenging the various military commands to work and communicate as one team.
NSA Crane Emergency Management Coordinator Fabian Bahena considered the scenario plausible for the base's work environment and incorporated responders from across the installation.
"Cooperation was necessary not only during the response, but also throughout the planning process," Bahena said. "The results of this exercise will identify opportunities for improvement so Crane can develop a robust and fully capable emergency response plan."
This emergency response exercise was NSA Crane's most comprehensive and realistic to date. Bahena drew input not only from NSA Crane leadership but all the other Crane commands to best determine areas of improvement for Team Crane's incident response. The result allowed all of the participants to see how to improve their efforts as one team.
"For CAAA and NSA Crane as a whole it is vital to practice as one team our response to, and recovery from, these low-occurrence, high-consequence events so that when the real thing happens, we are better prepared to quickly and safely deal with the situation," Kirkendall said. "That is literally the definition of readiness, being fully prepared for anything."
Utilizing a train and vehicle underscored the dangers present on the busy military facility. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, train and vehicle accidents averaged 2,130 over the last 4 years with an average of 257 fatalities and 892 injuries. For CAAA's Railroad Operations Supervisor Robert England, reinforcing rail safety through exercises like this is vital to saving lives.
"I've seen multiple train versus passenger vehicle accidents in my 16-plus years of railroad service," England said. "None of them had a winner. The sensitive nature of our business here increases the possibility of fatalities. Vehicles running train crossings have been a problem on the installation for years. I hope this exercise will spotlight a serious issue because if all hands are attending an avoidable accident it deters us from conducting our mission."
"Crane Army is an integral part of Team Crane," Lt. Cmdr. Scott Bullock, NSA Crane executive officer, said. "They ensure our Warfighters have reliable and ready munitions when they need it. Together, Crane leads the way!"
Crane Army Ammunition Activity produces and provides conventional munitions requirements in support of U.S. Army and Joint Force readiness. It is one of 14 installations of the Joint Munitions Command and one of 23 organic industrial base installations under the U.S. Army Materiel Command, which include arsenals, depots, activities and ammunition plants.