September is National Preparedness Month. Sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Preparedness Month encourages Americans to prepare, plan for and stay informed about emergencies.
Airmen with the 56th Civil Engineer Squadron Readiness and Emergency Management Flight are responsible for ensuring the base stays prepared in case of a crisis.
“We are involved with preparedness year around,” said Staff Sgt. Robert Fanton, 56th CES REM NCO-in-charge of plans and operations. “It’s not just a month for us, because this is our job. If anything happens, we are out there managing the situation. We are the ones who tie all the agencies together and make sure they are communicating and following the right plans.”
The 56th CES includes fire protection, explosive ordnance disposal, readiness and emergency management, design and construction, environmental programs, family housing, and operations and maintenance of the Barry M. Goldwater Range. Most of the agencies responsible for responding to an emergency can all be found within the 56th CES.
“The civil engineer squadron has a really huge role,” Fanton said. “We have carpenters who repair buildings. If the roads go out, we have equipment to fix them. Everybody in CE has a role and we spell out what that role is.”
REM Airmen are involved in all phases of an unexpected crisis. It begins with the installation emergency management plan.
“We write the installation EM plan, which is where all the checklists we use come from,” Fanton said.
“It includes everything from a terrorist attack to an earthquake. It covers the responsibilities of each agency, and it sets out timelines and the information people need to know.”
REM Airmen are also responsible for the EM program. The program disseminates important information to EM representatives on base.
“Each squadron has a representative who we send information to every quarter,” Fanton said. “When we send out the EM newsletter, it covers different emergency situations that could happen and representatives disseminate it to their squadron.”
When a serious situation occurs, EM representatives will meet at the emergency operations center. The EOC is the central command and control facility responsible for coordinating emergency management across multiple agencies.
“From the EOC we have pretty much the whole base sitting here,” Fanton said. “If the base gets hit by a tornado and it wipes out a building or destroys aircraft, the EOC conducts an activation. From there, emergency support function representatives will coordinate with their units to respond with what they need.”
Each ESF has a seat at the EOC where they can access information and receive updates. From the EOC they can also video conference with the unit command center.
“At each seat is a computer that ESFs can pull up web EOC to communicate with their unit control centers and get accountability,” Fanton said. “They can also pull up the checklist from the emergency management plan relevant to the situation.”
REM Airmen are also responsible for preparedness orientation training, EM representative training, EOC and unit command center training.
“When people get to this base they will get the base preparedness orientation training from us,” Fanton said. “For people who are not first term Airmen it is held when they do their in-processing.
We will go out and brief the local threat and hazards with weather and what to do if sheltering in place. We also go to the First Term Airmen Center and give the same briefing.”
Senior Airman Samatha Heiman, 56th CES REM Flight, works with the EM program. The best part of the job for her is seeing how the planning comes together.
“I enjoy the planning aspect of it, creating the response plans, putting everything into motion and seeing how everything you have put together works,” Heiman said. “If planning goes how you want it to, then everybody is going to do everything properly, and they are going to be trained and be able to protect themselves.”