MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY --
“Exercise, exercise, exercise. Shelter-in-place, shelter-in place immediately. There has been a hazardous material release. More information will be provided as available. Shelter-in-place, shelter-in-place immediately. Exercise, exercise, exercise.”
This was the notification that rang out from towers on the installation during a multiagency exercise involving Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany and the city of Albany officials, March 29.
Steve Dancer, installation emergency manager, MCLB Albany, said the purpose of the announcement was to ensure the installation workers and residents received personal protective measures, such as sheltering-in-place, which will help minimize the number of personnel who could become injured if such an incident occurred.
“This exercise, Vigilant Guard, is a United States Northern Command and National Guard Bureau sponsored event,” Dancer said. “Exercises are held in a different state each year to test the ability of the National Guard Bureau Homeland Response Force and its components to integrate and support local, state and federal agencies in disaster response and recovery efforts through Defense Support to Civil Authorities.”
Vigilant Guard was focused on Georgia and supported by Federal Emergency Management Agency Region IV consisting of NGB assets from the states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, according to exercise officials.
Dancer said the multiagency response was conducted according to current emergency operations plans and the activation of mutual aid agreements and memorandums of agreement/understanding with local, state and federal partners and agencies.
“The purpose of the exercise was to provide the city of Albany a training opportunity to respond to and recover from an incident occurring within the city limits and effecting MCLB Albany,” he added. “One of the dangerous aspects of hazardous materials is that it doesn’t respect jurisdictional boundaries. Although the incident site may be in one jurisdiction such as the city of Albany, the lethal fumes can be blown onto the installation requiring response assets from a different jurisdiction to not only respond to the hazard but potentially render mutual aid at the incident site.”
Lt. Col. Nathaniel Robinson, senior watch officer, Emergency Operations Center, MCLB Albany, described the exercise scenario.
“A train collided with several motor vehicles resulting in simulated hazardous materials being released,” Robinson said. “One of the railcars carrying chlorine tipped over and the chemical was released into the air. Basically, this was to test our ability to respond to the event.”
The scenario also called for a vehicle trapped under a railcar to erupt into flames. Several occupiers of the vehicles required extrication while some onlookers were overcome by the leaking hazardous materials, to include a school bus with adults pretending to be middle school children on it.
Robinson said he is proud of the exercise’s outcome.
“Overall, I think everyone did a very good job,” he said. “The purpose of exercise is to refine techniques and figure out things to improve on. One of the things we pride ourselves on is being prepared.
“Throughout the year, we practice a variety of scenarios which cause us to establish the Emergency Operations Center,” he added. “Depending on the situation, we will either call for shelter in place or move to set up the EOC immediately. Since this was a chemical event, we sheltered in place until we received more information such as the wind speeds and direction the (chlorine) was moving in.”
Robinson commented on the teamwork and relationship between MCLB Albany and the city of Albany.
“The teamwork is awesome because we work together,” he concluded. “It’s not just a business relationship, it’s a personal relationship. These guys know each other and react to each other intuitively and they know what to expect from each other. The coordination and cooperation is great.”
In addition, a group of distinguished visitors from various federal and state agencies as well as foreign military officers observed the exercise.