Thursday, August 30, 2007

Fort Belvoir force protection exercise recap

Hi folks,
Today myself, Andrew Levy of CERT 15 and Sherry deVries of Alexandria CERT participated in Fort Belvoir's force protection exercise. We were CERT victim volunteers today; in two different scenarios. This force protection exercise involved assets from the Department of Defense; the FBI, DHS,and the Virginia Department of Emergency management.The military district of Washington graded the exercise.
The first exercise started about 9am in the parking lot of the Fort Belvoir PX. The first scenario was a truckload of chlorine which was exploded in the parking lot. Andrew, Sherry and I (and 21 other government employee and soldier victims) were scattered across the parking lot with symptoms of difficulty breathing, vomiting, skin irritation and dizziness. We were moulaged to simulate the skin irritation; we all looked like we had severe sunburns!
When the "accident" was called in, fire police and EMS all showed up and began to triage us. We were scattered all over the parking lot and it took Ft. Belvoir Fire dept. about 50 minutes to find all 24 victims. (they used triage tape to tag us; and they use the exact same red,yellow, black and green tags we did in the older classes. Neat, huh.) The rescue services had no prior knowledge of the event; they clearly looked stressed when they came to the site only to see victims everywhere screaming, crying, vomiting and falling on the hoods of the MP police cars.....We stressed them more :)
I was at the bottom end of the parking lot with 3 other victims; we were triaged there and red tagged by the fire dept. and asked if we could walk to the decontamination station.(Although we were red tagged.) We had to walk through the middle of the hot zone; Folks, you remember the concept of decontamination; with hot, warm and cold zones? We could walk, but I "collapsed" about halfway up the hill. The firemen were making us walk near the truck that was "exploded"; they were hosing down the truck with water. The firemen came up and asked if I could walk; I couldn't (hey, I collapsed).
Derek showed us in a recent CERT refresher a really unique rescue method.This is the one where you drag a victim out of a danger zone using rope or webbing wrapped through the victim's arms and around the back. The firemen wrapped a strap between my arms and round my back in this manner. But, they kept my spine straight as they rolled me over; although I was walking I did collapse hard onto the pavement. And they started dragging me out of the danger zone.
Derek mentioned that this rescue method is "rough on the body". I was dragged about 150 feet or so to the decontamination station using this method; and I can TELL you it's rough. My back is scraped up; my butt got scraped up.I was dragged across asphalt; and in this 150 feet the back of my shirt got holed and shredded; the rear waistband of my pants got shredded and the swim trunks underneath got holed.(and my butt got scraped up too... )Folks, I got chewed up....But; Derek was RIGHT. When your'e in a hurry to get someone out of danger quickly this is a VERY effective method. Just make sure the victim is unconscious; otherwise they're in for an unpleasant time.......
I saw Andrew at the decontamination station; they did a "gross contamination" on all red tagged victims. I.E they did not disrobe us; they just hit us with 2 inch fire hoses. Andrew was up to his victim antics; running round tormenting the rescuers and going to the ambulance and pulling OUT ! medical supplies bags; and taking them over to the decon station to "help save" the victims. He gave the rescuers an oscar winning victim performance! He unloaded the ambulance of about half of the supplies, then he went to command asking if he could help; it was great! Sherry from Alexandria CERT had a "heart attack" and was decontaminated on the stretcher she was hauled out on. The firemen and police on scene overall did a decent job; one eye opener was the fact that the military police on post carry biohazard suits and masks with them in the cars.
Once this part of the exercise was over, we were bussed over to another building for the second part of the exercise. We played victim family members; a "plane crash" had occurred and we were to torment the family assistance center staff by being well, distraught, upset, potentially violent family members. We were asking for information; these centers are set up after an airplane crash or mass casualty event to disseminate a managed flow of information to the family members and the media. Again, this was another oppurtunity to play victim; the volunteers running this family assistance center were for the most part brand new and they were stressed out badly. The "fist fight" between two victim family members was interesting; but it was the distraught family member that pulled a "gun" and took one of the assistance center volunteers hostage that took the cake. The MP's were called in to "take out" the hostage taker; this was occuring while we were being evacuated from the building and while still tormenting the volunteers for information.This was an utterly chaotic part of the exercise; the family assistance center on Fort Belvoir needs work; LOTS of it. They got a valuable education today.
The exercise was over at this point; I stuck around post for the 3 pm "hotwash"("informal" debrief, although it took two hours) held by the post commander and his staff. This was a 2 hour recap of the entire force protection exercise; and the CERT volunteers were given special recognition by the command staff, the post commander, the people who ran the family assistance center program and the medical referees. We were recognized by the commander for our enthusiasm, our creativity and our initiative in making the exercise more realistic. Fort Belvoir has tried on three seperate occasions to try and set up a CERT program on post; for whatever reason all 3 attempts have failed. The post commander, Col.Lauritzer really appreciated the CERT effort we showed today; and mentioned it in the "hotwash"
Folks, our CERT program got some major "face time" today. Thanks to Andrew and Sherry for helping make the volunteer portion of today's program such a success.
volunteer PIO

1 comment:

  1. Talk about a fun filled day.

    Terry covered the majority of the first exercise. Unlike him who knew where he got his scrapes. I had to state "This is not a drill, I am in pain"... three times in a row before they listened. They were really caught in the moment of the exercise.

    During the second exercise, as I was going to check in to get information about my "family", I saw employee badges on the table. I took one, put my name on it. And was given access to the "drill" facility. I went over to the Volunteer Checkin area and received my briefing, while still playing my sad/upset/where is my family role. After being training in the Call Center, they brought me over there to answer the phones. But at that point, I got exteremly upset and they decided to have me fill out paperwork for my family.

    I kept getting more and more upset. Even tore up the family information form and made a scene.

    I just wanted someone to talk to me and not tell me what to do. Like I have said before in CERT classes, I act out in the exercises when I am ignored. The more ignored, the worse I get. As soon as one of the instructors (who participated) spent some time with me at this exercise, I immediately calmed down.

    Another interesting part of the exercise was that the entire exercise ended up out in the street and we were not sure really what happened. Everyone was waiting around for the call.

    We were interviewed for the Eagle newspaper and will post a link with photos when it becomes available.


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