CAMP GUERNSEY JOINT TRAINING CENTER, Wyo. – Camp Guernsey Joint Training Center’s Simulation Center routinely facilitates combat planning and execution exercises for military units from around the U.S. and the world. On Nov. 10 it hosted about 100 representatives of 29 local emergency response organizations and other related entities at a tabletop training exercise designed to practice response measures to a hypothetical dam break at the Guernsey Reservoir.
Maj. Michael Fields, range operations officer at CGJTC, said the scenario was built around the dam breaking and subsequently destroying the area’s bridges, as well as flooding the low-lying areas of town.
Fields and other organizers wanted to assemble the likely cast of characters from emergency management agencies, town offices, law enforcement, emergency medical facilities, the Guard, and service agencies such as the Red Cross and public health, to name just a few.
Platte County Emergency Management Coordinator Terry Stevenson, during his predrill brief and assignment of responsibilities, stressed the importance of following federal guidelines, standardized as the Incident Command System, for assembling an emergency response team and having assigned leaders in specified functions with clearly defined roles.
Fields said working hand in hand with Stevenson and other members leading up to the training event, to include hosting classes, has been a big part of his job over the last few weeks.
“We provide the education, the paperwork and the knowledge in order to get at least a baseline understanding of how this process works,” Fields explained. “Our main goal today is to give all these people some face-to-face time and in the event of a real emergency we have that familiarity and are able to provide this service to our populace.”
“Nobody is thinking this is a likely scenario,” Stevenson, said. “But one thing is likely, we will have a hazard sometime that we will have to deal with, and these are the kinds of people that will be working together, and this is the kind of organization that we will be dealing with in order to address it.”
Staff from the National Guard’s Joint Operations Center provided communications equipment to both the remote Emergency Operations Center and the Incident Command Team that would be on scene at an actual emergency.
As he and his Guard colleagues have done at dozens of similar exercises around the state, and at real-world situations, Sgt. Al Foster set up banks of computers and phones at both mock sites. The network is logged into Homeland Security’s EOC website where participants share a common communication platform and can monitor processes in real time across agencies. The Internet also provides access to maps and other resources.
Another Guard-provided asset, and a centerpiece of the exercise, that made a big impression on many of the participants, was a 3-D sand table where EOC members could watch the situation unfold as if they were hovering above the town in a blimp.
Sim Center manager Art Lowther built the sand table that, for this exercise, featured a map of the town projected onto moldable sand shaped into the area’s correct topography. On top of that, he added projections of various stages of flooding as the water rose into the town.
With that graphic data, response personnel could determine the most vulnerable areas due to elevation and proximity to the river, and focus their rescue and evacuation efforts in those areas sequentially. They could also mark areas that had been evacuated and cleared.
All said they agreed it was good to practice for such an event, rather than being forced to learn under fire at a real emergency.