News: IDHS wraps up training at MUTC
Story by Staff Sgt. Brad Staggs
BUTLERVILLE, Ind. – The Indiana Department of Homeland Security conducted the exercise Tornado Alley at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, April 23 - 26, to test the ability of Indiana police, firefighters, emergency response personnel and soldiers in the aftermath of an EF-5 tornado.
Muscatatuck was turned into the fictional town of Greensburg, Ind., following a devastating twister. Clothes were strewn about the facility, vehicles were overturned, fire and smoke poured from open windows and people were trapped and stranded, waiting for rescue by emergency responders.
The realistic scenarios presented during the exercise gave responders a chance to review and implement their disaster response plans, skills and capabilities while learning how to integrate their actions with those of other agencies, according to Jerry Jernigan, project leader for
Spec Rescue International, the company responsible for setting up the training.
On the first day of the exercise, April 23, the call went out to participants that a tornado had hit the community being simulated at MUTC. By the second day of the exercise, fire departments, local and state police, emergency medical technicians and members of the Indiana Headquarters Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center,
National Guard, started gelling into one cohesive unit to save as many mock victims as they possibly could.
Training vignettes varied from rescuing people stuck in collapsing homes to riot control to controlling fires at trailers, a mock gas station and a refinery. Unlike some exercises, where there is a pause between vignettes for an after-action review, Tornado Alley kept emergency responders extremely busy by featuring events that occurred one on top of the other. While a riot was going on at the mock prison, firefighters were called to the scene of a trailer fire only to have their forces split shortly after arrival in order to respond to a fire at a mock gas station.
Role-players, live people and mannequins, were made up to look as if they had been through various stages of distress, from walking wounded to burned to dead, which the emergency responders had to react to. The acting prowess of the role-players kept the responders from becoming too familiar with the event they were responding to and created further complications for emergency medical personnel.
The realism of the Tornado Alley exercise so soon after a large tornado struck several towns in Indiana served to remind emergency responders just how much training they need, according to IDHS District 6 Task Force Commander Jeff Houston.
"We were just deployed, full task force, to Henryville last month," Houston explained. "Because of the real-world tornado in Henryville, we don‟t feel like we can afford to back out of this training. We were only supposed to be here three days, but we're staying for a fourth day because we think it‟s that important."
Working alongside civilian responders were members of the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and high-yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force Package from 81st Troop Command, Indiana National Guard.
"Our mission starts with looking for victims," said Sgt. Scott Wilkins, a member of the 1313th Engineers from Franklin, Ind. "We have search and extraction teams which go out and do breaching and breaking to get people out."
A major part of the training for the 81st Troop Command involved shoring, or using materials to prop up buildings which may be ready to fall in order to remove victims in the safest manner possible.
"I think it has gone very well here,” said Jernigan. "For the state of Indiana, this gives them a chance to look at a cross-section of responders from across the state to look at the capabilities and ask 'are they prepared to manage an incident of this type at the state level?' This has proven that they probably are."
Tornado Alley was not the first IDHS exercise that MUTC has hosted and the facility will host a similar event in September. The uniqueness of the facility and the stress that the command places on customer service keeps IDHS returning each year.
"I'll tell you what; you cannot beat this facility," Houston said. "The facilities down here are outrageous; they are point-on to what we are trying to exercise our boots on the ground folks with."
Robert Shepherd, mayor of Attica, Ind., observed the training and agreed with Houston.
"I'm thrilled to death. I think it‟s an amazing facility and I don't think the people of Indiana or Attica really appreciate what's here."
"MUTC is excited to continue hosting IDHS training exercises as they prepare themselves to preserve the safety and security of all Hoosiers,” said Lt. Col. R. Dale Lyles, MUTC facility commander. “We enjoy the challenges of exceeding their expectations with new
and innovative venues. Our staff is hard at work preparing new and improving existing venues for their next training event during late summer 2012."