Volunteer pilots, photographers aid Alaska Shield disaster exercise

364th Press Camp Headquarters
Story by Ryan Swanson

Date: 03.29.2014
Posted: 03.31.2014 01:32
News ID: 123250
Volunteer pilots, photographers aid Alaska Shield disaster exercise

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska - Civil Air Patrol volunteers help ensure Alaska's energy assets are safe and secure during natural disasters by taking pictures and downloading them to federal authorities for analysis.<br /> <br /> On March 29, 2014, one such flight took off from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson to inspect energy platforms as part of the disaster exercise Alaska Shield 2014.<br /> <br /> After an earthquake strikes, volunteer pilots with the Civil Air Patrol immediately get up in the air and fly across the state on a damage assessment mission.<br /> <br /> The Civil Air Patrol also trains its own photographers how to take pictures of energy production and transport facilities in the event of a natural emergency and how to send photos to federal authorities for analysis.<br /> <br /> This day, Jeff Morton, a Civil Air Patrol mission observer, took several hundred pictures of a dozen oil rigs in Cook Inlet.<br /> <br /> "We get different shots from many angles, and make sure they are up to the standards required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency," said Morton.<br /> <br /> An earthquake can damage oil platforms by causing footings to slip and from tsunami activity all of which may cause the structures to ignite or cause large oil spills.<br /> <br /> "When it comes to a bridge, the damage is not easily seen, with an oil rig, it's there or not," said Ron Preston, a mission pilot with the Alaskan Civil Air Patrol. "There are a cubic million feet in the pipeline [below the rig] at any given moment.”<br /> <br /> One of the other oil rigs photographed on this mission was a “mono pod-style” rig with a single shaft of steel rising above the water.<br /> <br /> "It's a pedestal table that is designed to break the ice around it," said Preston.<br /> <br /> The plane then flew along the Aleutian Range to the Drift River Terminal on the Cook Inlet and spun around for more pictures.<br /> <br /> Morton and Preston went on to complete their important flight by touching down at a Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson airstrip. Morton then downloaded the pictures to a computer and finalized which pictures to send to FEMA.<br /> <br /> Alaska Shield 14 is an exercise that involves state, federal, military, and local agencies, designed to test response and coordination efforts during a disaster and is modeled after the 1964 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that devastated much of South Central Alaska.