By Capt. Megan Tidwell
The Utah National Guard’s Domestic Operations Office; in conjunction with the state of Utah Emergency Operation Center, Division of Emergency Management, conducted a multi-agency training event at Camp Williams in Bluffdale, Nov. 5, 2022.
During the exercise, organizations from the military, state, and civilian agency partners coordinated to conduct emergency response operations to a simulated earthquake disaster. . Groups from the Utah National Guard’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear Task Force; 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 211th Aviation Regiment worked with counterparts from the Utah Department of Public Safety; Civil Air Patrol; Utah Task Force One; Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue; and Intermountain Riverton Hospital.
“The civilian entities are called up and find they need assistance. They will take the lead. The process happens where the military is notified and we come in and help augment those civilian agencies, and provide the manpower, equipment, and anything we can to help with the scenario,” said Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Torres with the Utah National Guard’s Homeland Response Force. “This demonstrates interoperability to see how we mesh together and how we can both support each other and help each other.”
In this exercise, a simulated earthquake required the Emergency Operations Center to communicate and coordinate with state assets in support of agency rescue operations in a declared disaster area. More than 150 Soldiers, Airmen, and civilians came together to perform these operations.
”This is really a whole community event. It is a really good opportunity for us to be able to work with the Utah National Guard. We have been training for several years and to be able to get together now and exercise those pieces to make sure we can work together in the event something does occur locally here,” said Roger Beckman, operations captain with the Unified Fire Department, FEMA Utah Task Force 1.
As part of the scenario, three separate aviation assets worked simultaneously to perform rescue and recovery operations. UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crews from the 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 211th Aviation Regiment, worked cohesively with Task Force One’s Urban Search and Rescue teams to provide first responder care. Once search and rescue teams pulled people (role players) from the rubble pile a UH-60 Black Hawk transported them to Intermountain Riverton Hospital for treatment.
“We welcome this opportunity to strengthen our skills and our partnerships in this multi-agency disaster response exercise,” said Courtney Ingram, Intermountain Riverton Hospital emergency response management coordinator. “We know it’s not a matter of if we need these skills, but when – and we want the community to know we are here and ready to respond in the event of a disaster situation.”
The Department of Public Safety aviation assets conducted search-and-rescue operations and hoist operations for displaced or injured civilians in the scenario. Civil Air Patrol utilized its aviation assets to search for lost and injured personnel in the impact area.
“Having the opportunity to work with our civilian counterparts was instrumental in successfully completing this exercise and strengthening joint agency relationships for future events,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Brown with the Region VIII Homeland Response Force.
Strengthening partnerships with civilian leaders and other government agencies is an important element in the homeland response force being ready to assist and support effectively and efficiently.
“The last two years have taught us that our organizations must stay practiced in coordinating resources in order to respond quickly to natural or man-made disasters, enabling lifesaving efforts to flow more smoothly,” said Col. Erick Wiedmeier, commander of Region VIII Homeland Response Force in Utah. “It has been great working with the many great emergency responders throughout the state.”
Building and expanding partnerships is key for the HRF as they build on and continue their mission: Saving lives, and helping those in need.
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