While National Preparedness Month usually serves as a once-a-year reminder to prepare any and all for emergency situations, the Edwards Emergency Management team is here to provide additional preparation for all base personnel in case of a crisis year around.
“All bases have an Emergency Management team, I always explain it to others as if we were an annex or subset of the Federal Emergency Management Agency at the base level,” said Michael Feyerle, 412th Test Wing Emergency Management chief. “We are the installation’s subject matter experts when it comes to preparing the community and our leaders on preparing for, responding to and recovering from natural or manmade disasters. We are the tactical SME’s for ensuring command and control functions are established and exercised prior to responding to real world events.”
To better understand the Emergency Management construct and mission, Feyerle said the branch consists of four sections: Planning, Training, Logistics and Operations.
“Planning is charged with developing the Installation Emergency Management Plan 10-2, this plan is the source document used by all units, levels of leadership and first responders for responding to and recovering from a variety of natural and/or manmade disasters,” said Feyerle. “They are also responsible for reviewing and coordinating all subsequent installation plans and ensuring that plans work in sequence with one another.”
In addition to this, Feyerle said the Planning section ensures the base populace is provided with an array of preparedness training, to include dispersing preparedness educational material.
“This section along with the other sections interact with all three surrounding counties and Department of Defense installations to ensure a common operating picture is developed and community relationships are established prior to a disaster striking,” added Feyerle.
The Training section is charged with scheduling and tracking training for branch personnel as well as the base populace, according to Miranda Harris, Emergency Management specialist in the Training section.
“Training schedules and provides training for base personnel during newcomer’s orientation and squadron commander’s calls,” said Harris. “The section schedules and provides training for Shelter In-Place, Air Force Emergency Responders Course, Unit Control Center and, for our warfighters, we provide the Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear and High Yield Explosive (CBRNE) hands-on training. This training is provided by our staff prior to personnel deployments and permanent change of station.”
As for Logistics, Feyerle said this section is charged with identifying, procuring and maintaining Emergency Response equipment and funding.
“The section is also responsible for obtaining other units capability shortfalls and attempts to fund and procure equipment for First responders,” added Feyerle.
Within the Operations section, EM specialists here are charged with ensuring the Installation Emergency Operations Control Center and Incident Command Post is maintained and fully operational, 24 hours a day, according to Phillip Langhus, Emergency Management specialist in the Plans and Programs section.
“Specialists in this section are also highly trained as emergency responders and respond to events involving CBRNE type threats,” Langhus said.
With the integration of all these sections in EM, Feyerle said the team’s most important goal is ensuring the base is prepared for natural disasters most common to Edwards.
“In California, our most obvious threats are earthquakes. These disasters are sleeping giants and all personnel should put some effort into preparing for the onset and aftereffects of a seismic event,” said Feyerle. “Secondly, and more frequently, personnel should be familiar with our high winds and dust storms. These events come quickly and can be severe if precautions are not taken.”
The reason Feyerle and the rest of his team stress preparedness year around is because they believe preparedness starts at home.
“During a major disaster, EM and first responders will respond to the most devastating of areas or population first. Resources will be limited at best and priorities will have to be established,” said Russell Warner, Emergency Management specialist in the Plans and Programs section. “The rule of thumb is all personnel and their families should first be prepared to maintain basic day-to-day functions for at least 72 hours. This includes having medications on hand, some foods and water available in a kit and plans for possible relocation, either to a shelter or to another family member’s home. One of the best planning tools is to identify bug-out locations and rally points in addition to having family contact information handy and to communicate or practice these plans with your family.”
Other events that the team trains on throughout the year are smaller scenarios, but scenarios that can still impact a person’s way of life if not ready.
“Events such as heat waves, power outages, flash flooding are all smaller compared to earthquakes and impact smaller numbers, but if we are prepared, personnel can overcome these small but significant events much more confident, while minimizing stress and possible injury from not having the knowledge on what precautions to take” added Warner.