Airmen, firefighters and Emergency Management personnel at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., conducted a Broken Arrow training exercise on base, Sept. 28. 2021.
The phrase, Broken Arrow, is a term used to refer to accidents regarding nuclear weapons or their components. The scenario required multiple base agencies to respond to a crashed aircraft with a nuclear weapon.
Edwards AFB Fire and Emergency Services were first on the scene; to put out the flames. They also used a drone to get a better view of the crash site.
“Fire and Emergency Services (FES) is the initial responders for all emergency incidents. For this specific one, we will arrive on scene, perform size-up, initiate Incident Command, activate the Emergency Operations Center, and develop and Incident Action Plan that would defining the incident objectives to allow us to mitigate the emergency and limit loss to personnel, property, and the environment,” said Michael Gypp, Deputy Fire Chief, Edwards AFB FES.
Gypp explained introducing the drone in this training, allows the incident commander to develop objectives from a higher elevation. Using the drone helps to detect any casualties and additional hazards like fire and ordnance.
“When we can see the entire fireground from a higher elevation, we can make better decision on what objectives to develop, see if we have any personnel in an unsafe environment that they can’t, and allows the Incident Commander the capability to see how the incident is progressing and provide that information back to Commanders as quickly as we receive it,” he said.
EOD came later to the scene to physically look at the weapon and check for radiation levels. After EOD secured the weapon, the Bioenvironmental Engineering team then took command of the scene and establish a Contamination Control Site (CCS).
“It is crucial we practice with the other agencies to ensure appropriate and timely responses for real world events. We have overlapping equipment and we mutually assure everyone’s skills are up to date,” said 1st Lt. Arielle Miller, Bioenvironmental Engineering, Occupational Health & CBRN Response Officer-in-Charge.
Her team also provided proper meters and tools for EOD to help secure the weapon. This ensures responders are not overexposed to any hazards and proper Personal Protective Equipment are used. They also issued Electronic Personal Dosimeters (EPDs) to track responder radiation levels, Miller said.
Her team conducted a sample and survey to establish the isodose and contaminations zones for evacuation, health & remediation purposes. The exercise ended after the CCS successfully mapped the area
She then explains that it takes EOD’s readings and communicates a risk assessment to commanders; this advocates PPE and calculates stay times for recovery teams.
However, she explains that in a real-world scenario, they would brief commanders about contamination levels, the risk to the base, mission ops, and personnel.
“Finally, we would coordinate with a contracting agency for long term remediation and a group would continue to survey the area to keep up with changing health and safety boundaries,” Miller said.
An effective training program is built by following a systematic, step-by-step process, enhancing the skills, capabilities, and knowledge of everyone involved.
“It is crucial we practice with the other agencies to ensure appropriate and timely responses for real world events,” Miller said. “Practice makes perfect and without joint exercises, key safety or legal aspects might be missed.”