Disasters can come in a variety of forms. But the two things they all have in common are that they come quickly and when you least expect them. The people of Greensburg, Kansas, have a firm understanding of this. Before an E-5 tornado leveled 95% of it, this rural town was only known for being home to the world's largest hand-dug well. Since that day in 2007, the word "Greensburg" has become synonymous with how government agencies will respond to disasters in the post-Katrina era.
Within the first 72 hours after the storm, FEMA provided search and rescue assistance; deployed emergency response support; provided water, MREs, home repair kits and tools; set up communications; and began moving mobile homes and trailers. These are just a handful of the services that needed to be coordinated to secure the disaster area, protect the people and to quickly rebuild the city.
Natural disasters like Greensburg and Katrina have caused emergency managers to redefine how they protect the communities they serve. And while nobody knows for sure what catastrophe may loom on the horizon, everybody agrees that being prepared to address any and all hazards is one of the best ways to mitigate disaster. This is why a mock emergency operations center (EOC) is one of the key elements of the MCC-Blue River High Risk Attack and Disaster Training Center (H-RAD).
According to FEMA's Emergency Management Institute, emergency management must be comprehensive, progressive, risk-driven, integrated, collaborative, coordinated, flexible and professional. When completed, the H-RAD EOC will allow emergency managers and frontline first responders to train in a coordinated effort that addresses all of these tenants.
Most mock EOC operations occur in a room on-site where emergency managers work through scripted situations. MCC wants to take this training to the next level by tying the simulated emergency management training done inside the walls of the mock EOC to frontline situational training conducted in one of several outdoor police and fire training venues in close proximity to the EOC.
The following are examples of how this combined approach to training could be put to work:
A county emergency management team wants to review its procedures for handling a flood situation. As the management team works through its simulation, members of their fire department are conducting a water rescue exercise outside as part of the simulation. At the same time this is going on, members of the sheriff's department are securing store fronts in our Hogan's Alley from flood waters and potential looters.
A city's mayor, chief of police, fire chief and the director of the ambulance service want to review their city's plan for managing a tornado. While they review their plan in a room with intermittent electrical power, the fire department is tending to a propane tank explosion at our burn tower. At the same time, police are evacuating residents from our Hogan's Alley and a paramedic unit is working with another fire team extracting victims from an overturned car on our skills pad.
In each situation, the management teams are able to experiment with a host of variables and evaluate their responses to these variables in real time. This data can help identify areas for opportunity, which lead to a better prepared emergency management team.