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179th Airlift Wing emergency managers, local agencies train for hazard response

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Holli Snyder
  • 179th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Emergency management personnel from the 179th Airlift Wing and civilian first responders from outlying communities participated in a hazardous materials and terrorist use of chemical, biological, nuclear and high-yield explosives exercise on base Friday, Nov. 4, 2011.

"These types of exercises are pertinent because they allow all parties to see the interoperability between on and off base agencies when it comes to large scale response operations," said Senior Master Sgt. Mark Manbevers, 179th AW Emergency Management superintendent. "We can gain insight and learn from mistakes to allow ourselves to become a better response force."

The 179th AW has limited response capabilities due to that number of people who are fully staffed on a typical workday. The Air Force has specific guidelines when it comes to hazardous response operations, and if the 179th AW cannot meet those requirements, it then becomes necessary to have a Mutual Aid Agreement put in place.

Local civilian agencies and the 179th AW work together through established MAAs. These MAAs allow for the local agencies to respond to an incident on base when there aren't enough first responders on hand. The Madison fire department, Madison HAZMAT team, 179th AW fire department, Security Forces Squadron, Emergency Operations Center, and Emergency Management team were just a few of the participants in the exercise.

During the exercise, a suspicious package was found in the mail room where Staff Sgt. Jamie Hempfield, a 179th AW Knowledge Operations Manager, was working. "I've never been a first responder before, so I believe it is beneficial to be put in a position that I'm not entirely familiar with to learn new things. I have now gained insight on how to respond to an incident if it were to happen here," said Hempfield.

Senior Airman Taylor Keltz, a 179th AW emergency manager, received beneficial training from the exercise. She was able to experience working hand-in-hand with the Madison fire department in a HAZMAT response operation. Keltz has been a part of the unit for three years and has received CBRNE and HAZMAT response training where she is certified at the technician level. She was able to don the Level-A suit for HAZMAT response and get hands-on training with the Zumro decontamination unit that will be beneficial in her future.

Emergency management personnel go through rigorous training for initial award of their job specialty code at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., where they learn tactics, techniques and procedures for CBRNE, HAZMAT and toxic industrial chemicals and materials response. They also ensure their base populous is trained and capable to respond to a CBRNE event or natural disaster. Much of their work is done in conjunction with Federal Emergency Management Agency standards and they maintain their capabilities through upgrade and job-specific training each year.

The response to the exercise included the threat of a suspicious package containing an unknown substance, a hazardous waste spill on the base and decontamination of potentially contaminated personnel. The entire event lasted a little more than three hours and at the conclusion, all involved parties conduction an after actions report to determine strengths and weaknesses. They can then take their findings and apply them for future response efforts.