Drill brought hundreds to Valdez
Pros and ordinary citizens came together to practice catastrophe
Valdez Star photo
The Coast Guard cutter Long Island and its small crew tended to mock victims plucked from the shoreline Saturday during the days-long Alaska Shield emergency drill. The scenario mirrored the aftermath of the 1964 earthquake.
Valdez – and numerous visiting emergency responders – collectively heaved a huge sigh of relief Monday at the end of Alaska Shield, the four-day multiagency emergency drill held not only in Valdez, but all across Alaska.
"All the residents of Valdez and all our visitors who helped in Alaska Shield 2014 exercise, well as you come back to work or school, you can say at Least Alaska Shield 2014 is over," George Keeney, Valdez fire chief, said in an email.
The drill, which FEMA incorporated into a nationwide effort to become more emergency ready, saw not only local emergency responders such as police, EMTs and the US Coast Guard participants, but hundreds of local volunteers and National Guard participants from Arizona and Wisconsin.
The exercise was designed to test readiness and response to another earthquake on the scale of the 9.2 earthquake of 1964.
"The scenario in Valdez revolved around an earthquake and subsequent tsunami that caused significant damage and injured a large number of residents to the point that the local hospital was overwhelmed and required additional resources to assist the injured," the Arizona National Guard unit, the 966th Area Medical Support Company, said in an email.
All sectors of the community had chances to participate in the drill.
Last Friday, parents were asked to pick their children early from school as part of the drill, while city hall employees rolled into action to set up an emergency operations center at the Civic Center.
Scores of volunteers helped run shelter, acted as victims for simulated rescue operations or supported any number of exercises during the event.
Capt. Brian Faltinson/Army National Guard
Two medical personnel with the 966th Area Support Medical Company, Arizona Army National Guard, receive a patient from a Valdez emergency medical technician during a mass casualty training exercise held at the city's Herman Hutchens Elementary School.
As part of the exercise, the 966th set up a four-bed trauma center in an elementary school gymnasium and accepted waves of role-players acting as patients who injured during the simulated disasters striking Valdez and who were unable to receive treatment at the overwhelmed local hospital, the Arizona National Guard said.
The Wisconsin National Guard help with communications by sending in its communications team from the Wisconsin National Guard's 128th Air Control Squadron. The team provided communications support Saturday and set up a Joint Incident Site Communications Capability at the Alaska National Guard Armory in Valdez.
A JISCC is a robust, satellite-based communications system that serves as a switchboard between different communications platforms including telephone, internet, high-frequency radios and military radios, according to its public information officer.
While people in Valdez are regular participants in disaster drills of many types, the large scale exercise held after the 50 year anniversary of the Good Friday Earthquake was a chance to practice with outside responders in a more realistic environment officials said.