On Oct. 30, the City of Emmett, Gem County Emergency Management, and local first responders joined the U. S. Army North Bravo Team from San Antonio, Texas and the 101st Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Civil Support Team (CST), based in Boise, in an exercise which focused on a collaborative Emergency Medical and Hazardous Materials (HazMat) response and integration under the Incident Command System (ICS). Idaho State Communications (StateCom) in Meridian, Southwest District Health and Valor Health also participated in the drill.
The Army North Bravo Team is responsible to conduct training and evaluation for nine of the 57 WMD CSTs in the U.S., including Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, Wyoming and Idaho. The CSTs are federally-funded, state-owned teams, commissioned to support local and state authorities with specialized HazMat response capabilities. The Bravo Team’s goal was to challenge the capabilities of the local response protocols, while integrating the skills and resources of the CSTs into local operations, with the idea that all incidents should always be managed at the local level.
The scenario of the Unscheduled Arrival exercise involved an individual who came into contact with an unidentified substance which caused a burning irritation to his skin, with symptoms that continued to escalate. He also discovered a suspicious clandestine lab in the hangar. The victim called 911, reported the situation, and requested immediate medical assistance.
“Emmett City Fire Department has the responsibility to respond, rescue, and decontaminate patients and personnel in HazMat situations,” Lynsie Vickery, Emmett Fire HazMat Team Leader said. “This exercise provided a great opportunity for us to practice efficiently deploying our equipment, while maintaining the safety of responders and patients,” she said.
When the Hazmat Team arrived on scene, they assessed the victim’s condition, removed him to safety, de-contaminated him, prepared him to be transported to Valor Health, and contained potential exposure concerns. Emmett Police isolated and secured the area, and requested the closure of the airstrip. Incident Command coordinated with StateCom to request the 101st CST to provide specialized hazmat resources.
Once Emmett Fire and Police, realized the magnitude of the incident, Emmett Fire Chief Curt Christensen and Emmett Deputy Police Chief William Babcock established Unified Command. They continued in this command structure once the 101st arrived on scene and throughout the remainder of the exercise. All participating agencies were able to quickly settle into a collaborative and cooperative operation throughout the day.
“This type of training is valuable to both police and fire departments,” Deputy Police Chief William Babcock said. “It allows us to work with and learn from each other, so we are able to work together with precision in a real-life event,” he added.
Over the past year, Emmett Fire has invested a substantial amount of training for HazMat incidents, so Chief Christensen was eager to exercise his team’s capabilities and have them evaluated by experts such as the Army North Bravo Team.
Chief Christensen explained, “This exercise allowed us the opportunity to put all the pieces together and have it evaluated by the best in the nation. I was impressed with how our team executed the process that was a year in the making.”
Todd Chance, Operations Analyst for the Bravo Team, had high praise in his evaluation of the local agencies, “Emmett Police and the HazMat Team demonstrated an impressive life-saving rescue. The leadership, training, tactics and capabilities of the Emmett Fire Chief and his crew in this critical situation definitely bridged the gap between success and failure (or life and death) in this challenging scenario. The ease with which the operation unfolded, reinforces the importance of regularly conducting such drills and exercises,” he said.
Emmett Public Works and Gem County Emergency Management have been coordinating with the participating agencies since July to organize the exercise.