• Garrison tests emergency response

  • A “tornado” touched down on Fort Leavenworth...causing more than 30 casualties with injuries ranging from minor to life-threatening.

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    A “tornado” touched down on Fort Leavenworth and several wings of the Single Soldier Quarters were severely damaged causing more than 30 casualties with injuries ranging from minor to life-threatening.
    When the all-clear was given, Fort Leavenworth Fire and Emergency Services, along with the Leavenworth Fire Department and Leavenworth County Emergency Medical Services, sprang into action.
    This scenario was part of the annual full-scale exercise on post April 9. The Fort Leavenworth Garrison is required to do an annual exercise testing its response to the most likely threats to the installation. Previous scenarios have included train derailments and active shooters.
    “We try to pick things that are realistic that could happen to us,” said Edgar Guerra, Fort Leavenworth Fire Department assistant chief of training. “It is all about exercising and trying to improve our responses and to keep those links with our outside community.”
    Though tornados were the subject of the exercise just two years ago, Guerra said the scenario changed.
    “Last time we exercised our capability to do housing more spread out, going to 20 different houses. That was more of an urban search and rescue,” Guerra said. “This time we did a high-risk building, which has multiple residents actually staying in it, so this would be a priority anyway.
    “This is a challenge for us to try to take care of so many residents in one place,” he said. “It is a huge building, and we’re going to have to search every nook and cranny of the whole building.”
    Once on site, Directorate of Emergency Services personnel assessed the situation making sure it was safe for the firefighters to work, then provided traffic control and escorted EMS responders.
    “It is important for all of the entities involved to be able to communicate with each other and know exactly what they’re going to do in case of a real situation,” said Lt. Ronald Harig, DES training officer. “We train in individual aspects; however, to be able to put it all together, I feel like it is a perishable skill. Sometimes we forget about how important the communication is between organizations.
    “(Exercises help) identify our strengths and our weaknesses so that we can continue to improve our strengths and, of course, work on our weakness and identify any shortcomings, and find out how we can mitigate those in the future,” he said.
    Three firefighters helped evacuate two “people” stranded in a car that “crashed” into the building, while the rest began searching the building and setting up triage stations.
    One-by-one each casualty was assessed and marked to indicate the degree of urgency in which they needed to be cared for to ensure the maximum number of survivors.
    Page 2 of 3 - Victim role-player Pfc. Arthur Green, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 705th Military Police Battalion (Detention), said he learned something being trapped in the storm shelter.
    “If you want to be helped, you’ve got to let them hear you,” Green said. “If you want to be saved, you’ve got to scream.”
    Victim role-player Spc. Carlos Galarza, 165th MP Company, 705th, whose simulated injury was a facial laceration requiring stitches, said he learned there is a lot to be cautious about.
    “You should really be cautious of what’s going on in your surroundings like the weather and stuff,” Galarza said. “It is important because one never knows when it would happen and (the first responders) need to see and have training on how to treat that situation because Kansas weather, it is kind of unpredictable.”
    Following the search and rescue at the SSQ, the firefighters moved to the old Trolley Station to continue exercising their response procedures.
    Once patients were assessed, they were transported to a temporary transition shelter at Gruber Fitness Center, then either sent home or sent to the Emergency Family Assistance Center at the Resiliency Center.
    “EFAC is a one-stop shop that is activated by the Garrison commander in case of a natural disaster or a man-made disaster,” said Mallory Carmichael, Army Community Service mobilization, deployment and stability support specialist. “Families comes to us, and we have affiliates that come in … to take care of families and service members.”
    Services provided at the EFAC include medical care and counseling services.
    “We basically want them to leave able to take care of themselves,” Carmichael said.
    ACS is in charge of getting the EFAC up and running, Carmichael said.
    “After whatever happens and the Garrison commander says we need to activate an EFAC in order to take care of families, then we have two hours to actually activate the EFAC,” she said, “so all of our ACS roles will stop, and we’ll go into EFAC roles.”
    Survivor Outreach Services Program Manager Christina Long’s EFAC role was to check the identification of people entering the building through the single-entry checkpoint.
    “There are so many different situations outside of our normal situations that we may encounter during an emergency,” Long said. “We need to think outside of just our area to get the needs to the service members and families.”
    As all of the actions played out, the Emergency Operations Center was activated at the Garrison Headquarters where leaders assessed the situation, decided how best to support the incident and get the installation back to normal operations as soon as possible.
    Page 3 of 3 - Evaluators from Installation Management Command observed the exercise.
    “Our role is to look at and observe the actions taken upon emergency management,” said Daniel Cuevas, IMCOM Headquarters evaluator team leader. “What we do is look at the installation’s (standard operations procedures), we read them ahead of time, and then we exercise them.
    “Then we provide them with feedback at the end of the exercise,” he said. “All the evaluators get together, we collaborate, and we provide the Garrison commander and their staff feedback on how they executed what they said they were going to execute.”
    Guerra said it was awesome having IMCOM come to evaluate the exercise.
    “We don’t always get outside entities to take a look at how we do business from the outside perspective,” Guerra said. “They may see things differently and give us a different perspective. They also bring that expertise on best practices that they may have seen at other installations that they could provide us.”
    A snapshot report and out-briefing of the exercise will be given April 12 and a more comprehensive report from IMCOM HQ will be given to the Garrison within the next month.
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