NATICK, Mass. -- Disasters are one of those things you plan for but hope never happens.
But those people and organizations that take the time and do the planning have an advantage in coping with the disaster and dealing with its aftermath.
The U.S. Army Garrison (USAG) Natick team, led by Lt. Col. Kari Otto, garrison commander, was joined by partners from the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center (SSC), the Town of Natick, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and other local, state, and federal organizations on April 15 and 16 to train and prepare for any type of manmade or natural disaster that could impact the installation and the region.
The event is dubbed an Installation Force Protection (IFPEX) Seminar.
The two day training session was facilitated by Team MPRI, contractors for the Army Management Staff College. Many of MPRI's instructors are retired or former military officials with extensive backgrounds in emergency response. Other MPRI team members are retired emergency response officials from other agencies at the federal, state, and local levels.
The training was broad based, covering such topics as Command & Control for Incidence Response, Media Relations in a Crisis Event, Law Enforcement Roles & Responsibilities, and Medical Force Protection Plans.
Also, the instructors walked the participants through two "incident" scenarios at the end of each of the two days, soliciting responses and discussion from the attendees.
The SSC relies upon the Town of Natick for emergency response support. While SSC has capability to provide some response, the Natick Police and Fire Departments are key organizations in protecting the SSC community.
One of the main issues for any disaster response scenario is identifying and supporting the incident commander. Typically, the role of incident commander is initially assumed by the agency that has the lead for the incident. As the incident develops, the person filling the role of incident commander may change.
A key strategy used to manage complex, multi-faceted incidents is for responders to form a unified command. This allows for a concentration of decision makers and expertise in a command structure allowing for fast, efficient, and fully coordinated actions.
A highlight of the training was the discussion of the participants and their development of an appreciation for the various roles the participants play and the complexity of effectively managing an event.
Force Protection readiness and response is both a priority and an on-going effort within the USAG Natick.
While the garrison team continues their training, they are also preparing for a two-day Command Post Exercise (CPX) on Aug. 19 and 20.
During a CPX, an event is simulated and participants will respond to various injects from the training team. An inject can be a routine event or an unexpected occurrence that helps move the exercise forward.
SSC's CPX will involve the garrison team, support from tenants, and participation from local emergency providers such as the Natick Fire and Police Departments, area hospitals, non-governmental agencies and other emergency responders.
It is through these exercises that organizations test their skills and ability to respond to an emergency as well as identify areas in which they can improve.
SSC has a long history of conducting response exercises with the community. While the exercises stress the participants, most agree that the exercises are valuable and necessary to continuously build a responsive program.