FORT RUCKER, Ala. (Mar. 1, 2012) -- Exercise scenarios could put Fort Rucker through a simulated catastrophe such as a terrorist attack or a weather emergency during next week's All-Hazards/Protection Exercise.The exercise will be March 5-7 during which the installation will be put through a scenario that will test Fort Rucker's response system in the event of an attack or a natural disaster, according to Michael Whittaker, installation antiterrorism officer. The exact scenario will be unknown until the time of the event, but a briefing was held Feb. 23 at the headquarters building to show those that will be involved in the exercise an overall concept of what will be going on, he said. "[The presentation] gives those involved an idea of how everyone is supposed to participate and respond," said Whittaker. "It also makes them update all of their unit and activity rosters, their emergency management rosters for key personnel and their plans for how they protect their own buildings -- their physical security plans."
In the past, the exercise was called the Force Protection Antiterrorism Exercise, but was changed this year to the All-Hazards/Protection Exercise to include any type of disaster, not just terrorist attacks, said the antiterrorism officer. "Now we've got to be prepared for whatever inject that might be thrown at us in the last minute," such as weather disasters, he said. The purpose of the exercise is to get the directorates of the entire installation involved as they are put through drills at different force protection levels. "The entire installation will be participating," as well as outside agencies, said Whittaker. "It helps the installation exercise [its] agreements with outside agencies like the hospitals and other law enforcement." The objectives of the protection exercise are to: validate implementation plans; test notification systems, dissemination systems and Crisis Management Team functions; implement force protection condition measures; protect high risk targets and mission essential vulnerable areas; exercise reporting procedures; and test communication systems and consequence management operations, according to the antiterrorism officer. "This is an awareness type exercise for people on post," he said. "We have to prove that we can mitigate [disasters]. If not mitigate, [we have to be able to] at least lessen the damage if something happens." Tuesday will be the day of "boots on the ground," which is when the actual incident occurs, said Whittaker. Both the fire department and police will have to respond when the unknown incident occurs. "You never know what kind of scenario you're going to be getting into," he said. "There could be an explosion at the shoppette that could be a boiler explosion or otherwise. Until [the first responders] get there, it could be anything." Various outside agencies, such as the Red Cross, will also be involved with the exercise that will be coordinating with the Directorate of Public Safety and the fire chief in order to deal with the incident, according to Whittaker. An emergency warning will be sent out through the installation loudspeaker system to alert people on post of the potential dangers that may be going on in their area, said Whittaker. The entire installation will not be affected, however, and the "boots on the ground" portion of the incident will occur between 9 and 11 a.m., which should reduce the effect on morning and lunch traffic. "The exercise should be pretty transparent for most people on post because most people won't play and be active in the exercise," said Whittaker. "[The incident] will be in a quartered off area of the post," that shouldn't affect day-to-day life on the installation. Signs will be posted at the entrances to the installation to let people know that an exercise will be occurring and people will be notified over the loudspeaker, but for most on post, that will be the extent of their involvement, according to the antiterrorism officer. After the day of the incident, there will be the tabletop portion of the exercise, which is the remediation after the actual exercise to see what is to be done in the aftermath of the event. "Anytime you have a catastrophic event, people tend to stop it there," said Whittaker. "We have to go beyond that. What happens to the building that is affected or the people that were in that building? How would it affect the post if something happened to Bldg. 5700? Everything that happened the day before has to be dealt with. It's a pretty deep subject that needs to be addressed."