April 10, 2014 --
Twisting Thunder 2014 barreled onto Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, April 1, leaving 28 simulated fatalities, two collapsed structures, trapped victims, a host of injuries and displaced families.
“The two-day exercise tested the procedures, plans and policies in place in the event of a tornado on the installation as well as the coordination between partnering agencies,” Marvin Thomas, chemical biological radiological nuclear explosives protection officer, Mission Assurance Branch, MCLB Albany, said. “The goal was to return MCLB Albany to pre-incident operating conditions.”
To mimic an actual tornado event, the scenarios were chaotic and the participants were unaware of exactly what would happen or when. This forced quick decisions to be made pertaining to how to handle each crisis, who would be involved and how, according to Thomas.
Within an hour of the simulated tornado touching down, there was a fuel spill, a missing child, a building collapse with possible victims, 12 casualties and a transformer being destroyed reported to the emergency operations center.
As in an actual disaster, the EOC served as the command and control cell, which coordinated the efforts and operations, testing the base’s ability to stand up the EOC for a sustained period, according to Capt. Justin Jacobs, public affairs officer, MCLB Albany.
Albany and MCLB Albany fire departments worked together feverously to rescue a victim from a small space of a collapsed building during one simulation.
The scenario required the firemen use various heavy duty equipment to breech walls of concrete, crawl into a small confined space, find the victim and bring him out safely.
While in full gear, the firemen chiseled meticulously at a concrete barrier until a hole was created large enough for personnel to travel through. The effort included being required to take breaks during the exercise to prevent exhaustion and dehydration. That single simulation took more than an hour to complete.
During these types of exercises, rescuing victims is expected. However, logistics of other issues relating to funding, repair to damaged buildings and accommodations for displaced military family members were also successfully addressed during the drill, according to Jacobs.
Throughout the exercise, evaluators were present in the EOC as well as in the field to observe and suggest areas of improvement.
Evaluators deemed Twisting Thunder 2014 successful, according to Jacobs. It was the first exercise they have seen on the East Coast from the Marine Corps installation level that has lasted overnight.
During the roughly 30 consecutive hours of training, Jacobs revealed many lessons were learned in effectively communicating within the organization as well as with entities in the community.
He added it was evident this type of training is very necessary.
“We have to eliminate any single point of failure,” Jacobs said. “We have to get everyone trained.”
Representatives from several MCLB Albany offices, including but not limited to, the Marine Corps Police Department, Public Affairs Office, Marine Corps Fire Department, Base Operations, Comptrollers’ Office and Naval Branch Health Clinic Albany, were present in the EOC.
Some of the partnering agencies included Georgia Emergency Management Agency, Georgia Department of Public Health, Dougherty County/Albany Emergency Management Agency, Dougherty County Coroner, Dougherty County Police Department, Dougherty County Emergency Medical Service, Albany Fire Department, Amateur Radio Association, Turner Job Corps and others.