By Chiara MattiroloOctober 9, 2009
CAMP DARBY, Italy -- It was just another quiet and warm October morning with Italian and American personnel arriving at their workplace and students beginning their lessons when at 8:15 a.m., a vehicle exploded in the Commissary parking lot.
Fortunately, this was part of the Camp Darby annual force protection exercise. But, unlike previous year's exercises, this one was in conjunction with the local Italian civil defense exercise.
"The Pisa Prefettura, in agreement with the Italian and American command of Camp Darby, decided to test our abilities to interact as a team in case of natural disaster or terrorist attack," said Pisa Prefetto Benedetto Basile.
The first responders to the emergency were the military police who immediately blocked the area. Shortly after, the Camp Darby firefighters arrived on the scene to control the fire. Meanwhile, wounded and dazed players, made up by the Pisa Red Cross personnel, were calling for help.
"We take classes on how to make the victims look realistic and also on how to act as a victim; for example one of the players had to simulated hyperventilation and we obviously didn't want him to actually have problems breathing," said Giacomo Succi, Red Cross volunteer."
The exercise scenario also involved a leak of potentially toxic substances which brought the Italian Civil Defense agencies into action.
"It's important for us to know how much time is needed to reach Camp Darby during a normal traffic day," said Claudio Chiavacci, Commander Pisa Fire Department. "Firefighters had to don appropriate protective gears, in this case, chemical hazard devices, at their station in order to be able to react immediately once on the scene."
Contaminated wounded were taken to the decontamination tent and then were transported to the triage center. When the exercise was concluded, the area was secured and the investigations began to identify possible terrorists.
"It is very important not to alter the scenario to allow investigation process," said Raffaele Micillo, Pisa police chief. "Once we realized that the accident was the result of a terrorist attack, we alerted the neighboring police departments to be able to identify and arrest the suspects."
All key players involved said the exercise outcome was positive.
"We test our capabilities yearly," said Lt. Col. Stephen Cade, U.S. Army Garrison Livorno commander. "This is a difficult exercise especially during the phase of transition of command, the language barriers may cause some delays, for these reasons it is fundamental to test our assets with our Italian counterparts."
Italian Base Commander, Col. Raffaele Iubini, added that "in case of a real terrorist attack the Italian Civil Defense is responsible for force protection inside the base and it is imperative that the local emergency responders get familiar with the place as well as the people they are going to deal with."
Pisa Prefetto in his interview with a local media after the exercise added that he considered the test of the coordination between the various agencies that would intervene in case of emergency, a success.