A functional exercise that will take place next week and a full scale exercise scheduled for the end of November will test the installation’s ability to follow protocol and procedures during a live emergency.
The functional exercise scheduled to take place Oct. 23 will exercise the installation’s mass notification system and each organization’s ability to lockdown after being notified. Director of Plans, Training, and Mobilization & Security Gerry Veara recommends each organization create a personalized lockdown standard of operation due to the unique nature of each organization’s work environment. Individuals are instructed to lockdown in an area with few or no windows during an active shooter situation. The full scale exercise will test an active shooter scenario.
“Someone may have to step up and decide they have to lead the effort. Step up and organize lock down efforts and run drills,” Veara said.
Full Scale Exercise
The functional exercise is in preparation to the full scale exercise scheduled for Nov. 19 and 20. A command directive has gone out, requiring individuals within the installation to participate in the Nov. 19 exercise. The gates may potentially be closed between 8:30 to 10 a.m., and should not last more than an hour. Individuals with appointments outside of the base should plan accordingly and leave the installation before 8:30 a.m. in order to avoid any delays.
“You don’t get to say I’m not playing because I don’t feel like it,” Veara said.
On Nov. 19 observers will be monitoring the installation’s ability to lockdown. The mock lockdown should take no more than an hour. During a lockdown, individuals are asked to stay locked in their designated areas until they are notified that it is secure to exit.
“When we have evaluated the success of the objectives we will start to release the lockdown. It took me more than an hour to do online travel training, so I expect people to take the time to take care of themselves during an active shooter situation,” Veara said.
Individuals will no longer be required to participate on Nov. 20. The focus on the second day of the full-scale exercise will be on the installation’s ability to bring up successful resources for information after an emergency situation. The Commanding General will participate in a mock media interview the day after the shooting.
“We want to move quickly from the emergency response phase to the consequence management phase,” Veara said. “There may be some facilities that may still be inconvenienced and will continue playing in the exercise. There’s a crime scene that needs to be managed. We will be focusing on the consequences of the event.”
FBI representatives from Las Cruces and Albuquerque will be on scene. Veara said this will be the first time they will have the FBI’s full control setup during a training session.
“We’ll get a chance to evaluate our interoperability with the FBI,” Veara said.
During an actual emergency Army Community Services becomes the Family Assistance Center. The FAC serves as a resource for individuals who are seeking information or counseling after an emergency. The functionality of ACS’ FAC and the installation’s Emergency Operation Center will be closely monitored on the 20th.
“People will need some level of emotional care,” Veara said.
The FAC was created during the development of the National Incident Management System, after 9/11, in order to avoid a chaotic situation at the scene of the crime.
“The scene is the worst possible place for family members,” said Army Community Services Director Patsy Gomez. “First responders need to be allowed to focus on the work they have to do and they may not have the answers. We’re tied into the EOC and we’re sharing that information back and forth.”
During an actual emergency a 1-800 number will be established for the FAC. The number will be publicized for friends or family members who may be out of town and are requesting information for their loved ones.
“The FAC is where they need to go, who they need to contact when they’re looking for information for a family member,” Gomez said. “The main focus is that FAC is where they need to gather or call.”
Gomez said it is important to set up a base for information during an actual emergency. Gomez recalled a situation during an emergency in a different location where a mother found out her son had died through social media posts.
“We want that process to happen the right way. I’ve seen the process when it hasn’t been working the right way and it’s not good,” Gomez said.
Veara said the fundamental difference between this exercise and others that have taken place before is that this exercise focuses on the entire community’s response.