By Andre Butler, Moncrief Army Community HospitalDecember 20, 2012
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- The Emergency Management Institute, a department of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is conducting a series of virtual tabletop exercises, in which key members of the Fort Jackson community took part by video teleconference Friday at Moncrief Army Community Hospital.
The exercise was geared toward helping emergency managers across the United States validate their emergency management and operations plans.
"The virtual tabletop exercise involved key personnel discussing simulated scenarios in an informal setting and can be used to assess plans, policies, training and procedures," said R. J. Frazier, the chemical, biological, radiological and emergency management officer for Fort Jackson. "This is a new program, and the training event was the fourth of a series of training modules."
The scenario used for the tabletop exercise was one focused on a highway hazardous material incident.
"This virtual exercise enabled participants to exercise their knowledge, skills and abilities needed to effectively conduct all-hazards emergency preparedness, response and recovery," according to an information paper by EMI.
The information paper stated the VTTX is a prepackage set of exercise materials requiring reduced effort by participating organization. The new delivery method should allow affected communities to share real-time information on highway hazardous materials related to preparedness, response and recovery with all participants to address concerns and solutions for the incident.
Also, according to the document, the hazardous event allowed players to better coordinate their response operations with counterparts from local governments, other state governments, federal government agencies, private sector organizations and nongovernmental agencies and organizations.
The exercise leveraged video teleconferencing technology to reach remote sites and provided a virtual, experiential education environment to exercise and enhance critical response and recovery tasks.
Those participating in the exercise from the Fort Jackson community included Frazier; Capt. Thomas Costeira, Moncrief Army Community Hospital radiation officer; and Barry Field and Theodore Byrd, both with Emergency Medical Services.
Those participating came away from the event with their own experiences.
"The VTC is important to MACH and the installation because it gave us the opportunity to evaluate our emergency operations response plan to a highway hazardous material incident without putting anyone in harm's way," Costeira said. "It provided installation CBRN planners an opportunity to rehearse tactic and techniques that would be crucial if such an event transpired on one of our installation adjoining highways," Frazier said.
The theme of being prepared and training was at the forefront of the exercise.
"As the officer in charge of the hospital decontamination team, it gave me a chance to see how subject matter experts from across the nation plan and react to such an event," Costeira said. "This information can be used to realistically train our decontamination team members to effectively respond in such a situation. It is very important to train as you fight and fight as you train."
EMI will continue to facilitate training modules each month through August 2013. Each VTC will concentrate on a different hazard, either man made or nature driven.