BGCA emergency operations center keeps watchful eye

By Jana FeltsJune 12, 2023

BGCA emergency operations center keeps watchful eye
A technician in the BGCA emergency operations center runs hazard models as an evaluator takes notes during a recent exercise. (Photo Credit: Jana Felts) VIEW ORIGINAL

The Blue Grass Chemical Activity emergency operations center provides oversight of the movement of chemical munitions and acts as a command post during emergency response events.

“The mission of the EOC is to monitor and track chemical munitions movements and support depot emergency operations.” said Mike Bush, BGCA EOC supervisor. “Most importantly the EOC stands ready to provide timely and accurate notification of a chemical event to both employees on the depot, as well as the surrounding community.”

Occupied at all times, the EOC serves as the central emergency response and operations coordination point for not only BGCA, but also the Blue Grass Army Depot and the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant. EOC technicians use hazard prediction software and computer modeling to analyze each routine chemical operation and determine the level of risk for each task. The BGCA director of operations verifies the results and ensures that all personnel and equipment needed to conduct operations are on-hand. Subject matter experts from BGCA, Blue Grass Army Depot and Blue Grass Chemical Agent Destruction Pilot Plant then brief the BGCA commander during a final check and the operation is cleared to commence. Throughout the entire operation, EOC staff monitor and track operations, step-by-step, to completion.

Operations within the BGCA EOC rely on constant communication and coordination with community partners. Kentucky Emergency Management, Madison County Emergency Management Agency and the nine other Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program counties all play a critical role in BGCA’s ability to keep the community safe. Routine communications checks between the agencies ensure channels are always open. The partnership between the state and local emergency management agencies, the Army and Federal Emergency Management Agency ensures maximum protection to the surrounding community. These relationships afford each community and federal organization involved in CSEPP the opportunity to practice emergency response procedures on an annual basis.

Technicians practice their skills during the annual CSEPP and quarterly Chemical Incident/Mishap Response and Assistance exercises. These exercises simulate an emergency involving chemical agent-filled munitions. Technicians must gather essential elements of information from chemical crews on the ground, use hazard prediction software to analyze the situation based on the information, recommend actions to the incident commander and make community notification within a limited time frame.

In addition to full-time staff, the EOC also acts as a command post for subject matter experts from across BGAD during an emergency. Personnel gather in the EOC to execute emergency response functions related to personnel accountability, security, patient tracking, environmental response, public affairs and logistics support. The next Army-focused CSEPP exercise is scheduled for June 14, which will be followed by a community-focused exercise Sept. 20.

In order to effectively perform their job duties, EOC technicians must complete rigorous coursework provided by FEMA, the Army Emergency Operations Center, Army Response and Recovery and Chemical Hazard Prediction courses. Technicians are not fully certified until they complete training, several graded CIMRA exercises and a comprehensive written exam.

The BGCA supports the delivery of chemical-filled munitions to the BGCAPP for disposal and safely secures, stores and monitors the stockpile until it is destroyed. The BGCAPP is slated to complete the destruction of the chemical weapons stored at BGAD by Sept. 30, 2023. The BGAD will continue its mission to provide America’s military forces with conventional munitions and chemical defense equipment after the chemical weapons are destroyed.