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173rd Fighter Wing prepares for future disasters

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Shirar
  • 173rd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
"EXERCISE! EXERCISE! EXERCISE!" A collective groan can be heard throughout the base as those words boom across the load speaker.
As the members of the 173rd Fighter Wing prepare for the upcoming Unit Compliance Inspection in September, base-wide exercises are becoming more and more common.
One such exercise took place on April 6, 2010 at Kingsley Field.

The scenario consisted of a severe weather event that resulted in various flood watches, warnings and bulletins issued to Klamath County. As the severe weather event continued with heavy rains, rising rivers, and failing dams, a vehicle accident on base resulted in two severely injured personnel and one fatality. The scenario continued with heavy rainfall resulting in the failure of a roof on base which resulted in several more injuries. The final inject was a tanker truck crash off-base which caught on fire, releasing toxic fumes and smoke, forcing the wing to implement the Shelter-in-Place (SIP) plan. In a separate, but simultaneous scenario, a phishing e-mail was sent to 27 wing personnel and several additional computer users received indications of a virus attack on their computers.

The purpose of the exercise was to evaluate the wing's response to a variety of emergency situations, both at the wing leadership level (the Emergency Operations Center, or EOC) as well as the Unit Control Centers, building managers and other personnel.

"The Exercise Evaluation Team (EET) had developed a number of objectives to evaluate, to include a complete Next of Kin notification process. We also wanted to evaluate how well the wing handled the Shelter-in-Place scenario," said Lt. Col. Jonathan Holdaway, 173rd FW Inspector General and EET chief.

So how did the wing do?

"Overall the exercise was very successful, even though performance on several of the objectives did not meet the satisfactory criteria," said Holdaway.

One area that needed improvement was the phishing email scenario. 13 out of the 27 individuals receiving the phishing e-mail clicked on the embedded link, and many of the individuals receiving the virus inject card were uncertain of the actions they were supposed to take. On the flip-side, the Shelter-in-Place actions went much better than the last exercise, and the communication between the EOC, UCCs and wing personnel was very good.

Base-wide exercises are about more than just checking a box off on the inspection checklist.

According to Tech. Sgt. Morgan Smith, 173rd FW Emergency Management, "Exercises are the best way to prevent and prepare for disasters, and they allow us to practice response and recovery. Through exercising the potential threats we are subject to here at Kingsley Field, we can learn what can be mitigated."

During this last flood exercise, for example, the EOC was able to determine where all of the local flood plains were, and which areas on base were likely to flood. This in turn will lessen the effects of a flood, by preparing, logistically, what is needed.

"Now that this leg work has been done a real-world flood should not impact our mission nearly as much as it would have had we been unpracticed and unprepared," added Smith.

Every exercise is a chance for the base to prevent and prepare for future disasters.

"I want to thank all the wing personnel who participated in this exercise. I know that it can be painful at times, but the lessons that we are learning can be priceless in the future," added Holdaway.

Therefore, when the giant voice echoes through the base WITHOUT the preface of "EXERCISE!" attached, we will be ready.