Members of Team Edwards ran an emergency scenario exercise that started prior to Thanksgiving and ended the following Monday, Dec. 2.
Randy Wells, 412th Medical Group, Exercise Evaluation team chief, explained that the scenario revolved around a weaponized smallpox attack at the Los Angeles Forum where several Edwards personnel were infected. A few days after intelligence of the suspected attack made its way to the base, those infected began filtering into the medical group where they were isolated and questioned. Samples of the strain were sent to a laboratory in Tulare County, Calif., and seven hours later the results confirmed it was in fact smallpox.
After reporting the information to base leadership, it was declared a public health emergency and the 412th Medical Support Squadron went to work setting up a POD.
“We needed a disease containment plan because there were a number of people who were exposed to smallpox. The POD is a point of dispensing to get medications to patients who may have been exposed or in this case, vaccinations,” said Capt. Ronald Elazegui, 412th MSS POD manager.
The 412th Logistics Readiness Squadron was in charge of delivering crates of vaccines to the POD, located at the Oasis Community Center. While the crates were empty for the exercise, performing the routine functions of delivery allowed the logistics team to collect real-time data for the delivery process.
During the exercise, members of the Emergency Operations Center were instructed to report to the POD for their vaccinations. Those already experiencing symptoms were sent to the isolation room in the gym to determine the appropriate course of action. Anyone deemed infected was quarantined at the Airmen and Family Readiness Center while they waited for transport to a local hospital.
Meanwhile, in the conference room at Bldg. 3000, the Casualty Augmentation Support Team practiced their reporting and notification procedures. According to Dean Murphree, SBP/Casualty Assistance Representative, the CAST Team is only activated in the event of a mass casualty scenario, which is three or more casualties.
The CAST team is responsible for sending the official report of a death to Headquarters, Air Force Personnel Center and then finding the next of kin on the vital record of emergency data and sending out formal notifications. Each notification is presented by a team comprised of a field grade officer, duty chaplain if applicable, and someone from the medical group in case of an adverse reaction from the next of kin.
“The most important job here is notifying the families of the fallen,” said Murphree. “We want to make sure none of the information is disclosed [elsewhere] because it would be inappropriate for these families to hear of their lost loved ones prior to the formal Air Force notification.”
After a notification has been delivered, the CAST team will work in conjunction with the Honor Guard to provide proper mortuary assistance. “Our mission is prompt reporting, timely and humane notifications to next of kin and then providing thorough and compassionate survivor assistance,” said Murphree. “But our number one mission is delivering the message with care and compassion.”
Murphree concluded that it is important to practice exercises as real-world as possible so that in the event of a true emergency, the teams will be proficient in their duties.
Edwards AFB routinely conducts Operational Readiness Exercises to ready base personnel for a variety of emergencies that may occur.