Selfridge shows preparedness for emergency response

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Anna Wyant
  • 127th Public Affairs
A group of airmen were told that a plane had caught fire on the flight line, killing or injuring at least 100 civilians and some military members. Instead of heroically running out the door to save the victims and extinguish the fire, the airmen remained calmly seated in the dining facility. 

It was not that they were too afraid to battle the flames and risk their lives to save the innocent; the announcement was merely part of a tabletop exercise during which Selfridge ANGB personnel were given a hypothetical emergency situation and asked to discuss ways to handle the disaster. This drill was one of many in preparation for the August air show and overall base disaster preparedness. 

Members of the 127th Wing spent hours discussing the problem and possible solutions from several different viewpoints including medical personnel, firefighters, bio environmental engineers, public affairs personnel, security forces, air show coordinators, and other essential personnel. Each section discussed their responsibilities and courses of action for each facet of the situation from notifying local media to caring for the wounded. 

Following the tabletop discussion was a live exercise for which participants were given a scenario that they acted out as though it were a real emergency situation. An exercise call was made to the 127th Security Forces Squadron reporting that people were vomiting and staggering outside building 835, and it seemed suspicious. To assess the situation, security forces sent troops, who then called the Selfridge Fire Department. Once the firefighters arrived and determined that the people in the parking lot were likely contaminated by an unidentified chemical, they contacted emergency management and bio environmental engineering personnel. 

Drills such as this ensure that both civilian and military responders are ready for various possible mishaps and disasters. 127th Wing Plans Officer and Exercise Evaluation Team Chief Capt. Jeremy Stoner oversaw the simulated disaster and made sure participants were following proper procedures. 

"Doing these drills regularly will get us closer to performing these tasks flawlessly in the future," Stoner said. 

In addition, this exercise allowed various units to work together, which the Wing Emergency Manager Scott Anderson said benefits everyone. 

"Working with different agencies helps us develop better communication in case we have to do this for real," Anderson said. He added that similar exercises are done a few times a year, which helps validate training for emergency responders who might otherwise never be put in such a disaster situation and therefore would not know how to act accordingly. 

After the victims were saved from the contaminated building, firefighters had to rinse themselves and the victims in a decontamination area, which firefighters set up in the parking lot outside the contaminated area. 

Of those involved in the exercise, some are Guardsmen, some are civilians, and some are both. Technical Sgt. Lyle Black has been with the 127th Civil Engineer Squadron as a firefighter for eight years, and he has also been working as a civilian firefighter at Selfridge for the past two years. Militarily, Black is the Assistant Chief Firefighter in his unit, which entails much administrative work; but while working as a civilian--as he was for the exercise--he has a chance to get away from the desk and head toward the action. 

"I get to use my managerial skills in the Guard and my firefighting skills as a civilian," Black said. "I like to work hands-on and know what my troops are doing." He said that he enjoys doing exercises with other organizations on base because it better prepares him and others involved for a real situation. 

Each organization did their part to ensure that the exercise went smoothly. Nobody, however, could get Mother Nature to cooperate, and the drill was cut short due to forecasted lightning storms. Luckily, the last step of the drill was to turn the situation over to the FBI or Air Force Office of Special Investigation. 

Despite the exercise' s early conclusion, Stoner said it was effective in determining the Selfridge's strengths and weaknesses in responding to a realistic chemical incident, and the teams dealt with the situation especially well.

"The results highlighted several areas where gaps in communication or uncertainty about specific actions could hinder a safe and efficient response, and those areas were quickly corrected and recorded for future improvement," Stoner said. "I think we made significant progress in being prepared for future emergencies."