The official word is out: Redstone Arsenal employees are asked to prepare for a large-scale weapons of mass destruction simulation event May 7-8 that will test responses among the Arsenal's emergency personnel as well as its organizations and tenants.
Thanks to more thorough security measures and heightened public awareness, chances are an incident similar to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, will not occur on Redstone Arsenal. But, as an installation regarded as a prime target for terrorists, Arsenal emergency personnel are continually training and preparing to respond to a wide range of large-scale weapons of mass destruction situations.
That training and preparation will take on real-life aspects during a simulated disaster situation involving weapons of mass destruction scheduled for May 7 and 8, at Garrison headquarters, building 4488, on Martin Road near the intersection with Rideout Road. The event is known as an Anti-Terrorist Weapons of Mass Destruction Exercise.
"On these dates, we are urging Team Redstone employees and other personnel to refrain from driving in the area around building 4488. The traffic near Garrison headquarters will be affected by this exercise. There will be some restriction in traffic flow and traffic may need to be rerouted," said Terry Likely, manager of the Installation Operation Center and a specialist in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear explosives.
"Team Redstone employees need to be aware that an emergency exercise is going to be conducted on May 7 and May 8."
Activities on May 7 will involve procedural plans and responses leading up to the actual simulated event, which will primarily be evident to Team Redstone employees on May 8.
Likely, a retired first sergeant, oversees the Arsenal's Installation Protection Program, which is required by the Department of Defense to conduct a simulated weapons of mass destruction exercise annually.
"After 9/11, the Department of Defense determined that this installation was not prepared if we had been hit with something similar to 9/11," Likely said.
"We now have in place a family of systems that will allow us to be prepared for some type of weapons of mass destruction event. We've been issued the equipment that we need, we've been trained to respond with that equipment and we have plans in place to respond to an event. Now, we need to test our ability to respond to a weapons of mass destruction event in a way that involves every component of the Arsenal, and all organizations and tenants."
While the Arsenal's first responders - namely police and fire departments -- will have the major role in this exercise, Likely said it will also involve management and employees from the Directorate of Emergency Services; Garrison; Safety; Fox Army Health Center; Public and Congressional Affairs; Criminal Investigation Division; Department of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security; Department of Human Resources; Directorate of Information Management; Department of Public Works; Resource Management; Department of Logistics; Morale Welfare and Recreation; Plans, Analysis and Integration; Environmental; Civilian Personnel Advisory Center; AMCOM; Legal; Warfighters Protection Laboratory and Equal Employment Office. The Huntsville Police Department, HEMSI and American Red Cross will also be involved in the exercise.
While much of the event will be played out on site at the Garrison building, a management team will be located in the Installation Operation Center to coordinate responses and determine the actions that should be taken to resolve the situation.
"Once the first responders are on-site, all directive heads will come here (to the center), and take positions and assist with dealing and managing the event from this location," Likely said.
The Installation Operation Center has been planning for the simulation since September 2007. The center worked with Arsenal management in a table-top exercise and a functional exercise, using the two training exercises to develop and refine responses. The full-scale exercise will be the most realistic element of the training and will involve different scenarios that will evolve in relation to responses to the simulated exercise.
"We have gone over plans, battle books and exercises to help us develop ways to mitigate situations," Likely said. "Some of those involved will be called in on May 7 and be required to take some actions based on their plans. Scenarios will occur during the exercise that will force people to react. There will be issues involving things like checking buildings and checking I.D. cards that people will have to respond to."
The details of the exercise will not be made public prior to the simulation. Rather, those involved will be called on to respond in real-time as though the event was actually occurring. It will also involve simulated injuries and deaths.
"This simulated weapons-of-mass-destruction type of event could involve explosive, radiological, biological and chemical elements," Likely said. "We will be testing all our abilities to respond, including how we recover casualties and get them to the care they need, and how we exercise policies and procedures involving deaths."
"People outside the Installation Operation Center will be driving the simulation and providing us with scenarios that are very life-like and that we have to respond to."
Once the exercise is complete, all aspects of it will be analyzed to determine how to improve responses.
Likely is asking Team Redstone employees to be patient with emergency personnel during the simulation. All efforts will be made to make employees in the area of the simulation aware of the event.
"We've identified the people who will be affected and we are making them aware of the event. We are trying to make this as less disruptive as we possibly can," Likely said. "But, at the same time, we have to have an opportunity to exercise our policies and procedures, to utilize the equipment that we have been issued and trained to use, and to determine if our emergency personnel can perform their set duties."