MCAS Yuma conducts training for air show 'emergency'
To prepare base and civilian personnel for any possible type of emergency, including ones that could involve thousands of spectators, Marine Corps Air Station Yuma conducted an emergency response training exercise on Wednesday.
This year's exercise, Desert Impact 2013, was designed to test the air station's emergency response preparedness to a simulated toxic chemical spill close to the air station during next month's annual Yuma Air Show.
It gave air station units an opportunity to collaborate with other local, state and federal agencies such as the Yuma Police Department, the Yuma Fire Department, Rural/Metro Fire Department, the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the Yuma Sector Border Patrol, Yuma County Emergency Management and Yuma Regional Medical Center, which all took part.
“What we conducted today was a mass casualty drill and response to a hazmat incident. The drill involved most of the emergency response elements on the station, as well as civilian first responders,” said Charles Richardson, installation mission assurance director for MCAS Yuma. “It's absolutely crucial that we all work together to do this in a training environment, rather than wait for a real-life event.”
While emergency preparedness was the main goal of the exercise, Lt. Col John Hicks said just as important was improving cross-agency communications during a crisis.
“We have had a lot of different agencies come together to work through our processes, develop relationships and establish some standards that we are going to use in case this ever comes up in real life,” Hicks said as the exercise was coming to a close.
The scenario for Wednesday's training involved a simulated explosion at the Dole plant across the street from the air station's north gate, which created a chemical plume that covered an the northeast portion of the air station.
In addition to responding to and treating those affected by the chemical plume, base and civilian personnel had to evacuate a simulated 15,000 to 20,000 “spectators” who were at the air station for the Yuma Air Show.
During the exercise, large numbers of emergency response vehicles, simulated victims and evacuation training were seen on and around the air station.
“(These trainings) are very realistic from the command post perspective,” Hicks said. “If you were in the command post, you would see the same discussions, the same information management and dissemination going on that you would see in real life. If you were out on the air station, a lot of this stuff was simulated, just to give the command center something to work with.”
The final aspect of the preparedness training came when information was developed that the simulated explosion was a deliberate act and the air station had to increase its security.
Both Hicks and Richardson said the training exercise went well. MCAS Yuma conducts two emergency preparedness training exercises a year, with each targeting a specific type of emergency.
James Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6854. Find him on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/YSJamesGilbert or on Twitter @YSJamesGilbert.