Garrison responds to national emergency

By Jennifer Walleman
Fort Leavenworth Lamp – April 17, 2015

A train headed northbound on Fort Leavenworth clipped a bus full of Fort Leavenworth staff members, causing three train car derailments, a major crude oil spill and 40 casualties. A postwide response was initiated with outside assistance from the Environmental Protection Agency, Union Pacific, Leavenworth City Fire Department and Leavenworth County Emergency Medical Services.

This scenario was part of the annual full-scale exercise on post April 14. Fort Leavenworth is required to do an annual exercise on the most likely hazards and threats to the installation.

The Directorate of Emergency Services police and firefighters were the first on the scene. The police assessed the situation and kept the fire department informed as responders arrived, provided site security, initiated evacuation protocols and access control. Chief of Police Aaron Henderson said that he thought his team responded well to the situation.

“This is kind of the way we kick off for us,” Henderson said, “that last-minute cold start. For us every phone call changes the dynamics at any given time. The phone call is going to reestablish our priorities for the day. By the sheer nature of the job, we tend to be very reactive. That’s just what we do.”

The Fort Leavenworth Fire and Emergency Services brought three engines to the scene and Leavenworth City Fire Department brought one. Fort Leavenworth firefighters and emergency medical technicians assessed the situation, performed triage for casualties and then helped divide them into groups based on their injury status with the Leavenworth County EMS. The casualties were played by staff of the 15th Military Police Brigade and Munson Army Health Center.

Jamie Miller, director of the Leavenworth County EMS, said that the exercise was good for his team to do to learn where to improve upon. They provided three ambulances, a supervisor and three administrators for the exercise.

“Communication between all of the EMTs is going to be huge,” Miller said. “We’re kind of the outsiders. We’re county coming into Fort Leavenworth so our systems and things like that were tested out in our ability, capabilities and things of that nature. There are a lot of goods and bads, ups and downs that we’ll learn from this.”

Fort Leavenworth firefighters also attended to the simulated derailed train cars with the Leavenworth City Fire Department. According to the scenario, one car leaked 30,000 gallons of crude oil into Quarry Creek, which flows into the Missouri River. To stop this flow from reaching the river, the Directorate of Public Works dropped a floodgate. Firefighters worked to put out the simulated fire of one of the cars that hit an electric pole and ignited and prevented another car near it from igniting as well.

Firefighter and EMT Rob Laver has only been with the Fort Leavenworth Fire Department for five months, but he’s no stranger to mass casualty incidents during his 20-year firefighter career. He responded to the terrorist attack on the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, and knows the importance of full-scale exercises.

“Our job is a unique job,” Laver said. “Every day requires training on and off shift. This is an important part of our job when it comes to mass casualty, triaging patients, priority of the call and then, of course, patients are the No. 1 priority. At the same time, different units mitigate different problems that will occur.”

Incident command was set up at a hanger at the airfield. Incident Commander Bruce Davis, assistant chief of operations for Fort Leavenworth Fire and Emergency Services, relayed instructions and information out to emergency crews, staff on site and Garrison staff located at the Emergency Operations Center, Joint Information Center and the Emergency Family Assistance Center.

John Hughes, emergency management specialist, said that the exercise was an opportunity for post to collaborate with outside agencies and fine-tune its procedures.

“What it is is a good collaboration between the county and the federal resources,” Hughes said. “It just confirms our communication capabilities with on- and off-post assets.

Now that the exercise is over, Hughes said that external evaluators from the U.S. Army Installation Management Command will review the post’s standard operating procedures and plans.

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