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News | Nov. 6, 2018

Full-scale exercise tests installation preparedness, emergency response

By Emily Tsambiras DLA Distribution Public Affairs

Throughout the week of October 15, the Defense Distribution Center, Susquehanna installation was a host to a flurry of unusual activity: protestors, structural collapses and even a dumpster fire.


Although the events were, in fact, cause for alarm, they were pre-planned emergencies designed to test the installation’s first responder skills as part of a full-scale exercise.


Over the course of the week, DLA Fire and Police were observed responding to a reported workplace violence incident, structural collapse, mass casualty, multiple vehicle fires, protestors, and several other simulated events on the installation, all designed to stress the system and test preparedness. 


According to Wayne Rhodes, installation emergency manager, the exercise provided several realistic, complex, and multi-part scenarios for first responders and dispatchers and they demonstrated an excellent ability to perform their response. 


“As with any exercise, we encountered areas for improvement, to include our voice mass notification messaging, as well as training and preparation for installation personnel on expected protective actions during an event,” said Rhodes.  “However, the performance of the [first responders] should reassure the installation community that our response to emergency situations will be handled quickly and with a high level of professionalism.”


The week’s events were not meant solely for first responders, however.  They provided a means for organizations and tenant activities to implement and practice facility-specific Emergency Action Procedures while serving as a means to clarify and familiarize assigned personnel on their duties and responsibilities during a time of crisis.


Throughout the week, employees often heard “Exercise – Exercise – Exercise,” as work centers were directed to shelter-in-place, evacuate, lockdown and provide accountability of assigned employees.

At the end of the week, the installation elevated its baseline security posture to Force Protection Condition (FPCON) “Exercise” Charlie, with organizations and tenant activities being directed to accomplish FPCON Charlie action-sets and measures. 


According to Tim Moore, installation antiterrorism officer, although it is an annual requirement, conducting a full-scale preparedness exercise enables the installation commander to identify and validate specific tasks, conditions and standards required to execute incident response and consequence management actions. 


“During full-scale exercises the installation has the ability to improve interagency coordination and communication efforts, validate capability gaps, and identify areas needing improvement,” he added.


Coordination was required amongst all organizations and tenant activities on the installation, and included de-conflicting of schedules, commitment of assets, personnel, resources, a comprehensive risk assessment and, ultimately, approval from the installation commander. 


The exercise objectives were designed to disseminate the flow of critical communications; validate tactics, techniques and procedures; assess and validate the ability to transition into a higher level FPCON; validate incident response and consequence management plans; validate media and external communication efforts; identify gaps and deficiencies in planning and training; and to conduct all exercise operations in a safe manner. 


“Although these objectives were met, there is always room for improvement planning which means planning for the fiscal year 2020 exercise has already begun,” said Moore.