Trying something new
Our spring simulation offers us a chance to test our dispatch protocols, activation timing, mobilization, and Incident Command expertise. For the first time ever, we added a twist: Doing all of this in a parking lot with just what we have in the trailers.
At 0815 on Saturday, March 23, select members arrived at Central Station following a standby order, only to find that the building was damaged in the preceding storm and was not suitable to serve as a command post. 30 minutes later, we activated the Allen CERT membership with instructions to report to our secondary staging area: Allen High School.
Both CERT trailers were transported to the high school parking lot within 15 minutes and, by 0900, several responders had arrived at the staging area. By 0920, both trailers were unloaded, a command structure was established, net control was up and running, and the first damage assessment team was receiving their assignment briefing. That means that, from activation to mobilization, we baseline at just over an hour – not bad at all considering the command post had to be relocated.
At 1115, the final assignment had been completed and teams were in route back to the command post where we debriefed and documented observations on both the action plan, and our ability to mobilize a command post.
What did we learn?
Maps are vital; Having a large satellite-image map of the city is extremely helpful when developing an action plan and determining where to send resources.
The generator upgrades, courtesy of William Ingram, was instrumental in starting the generator quickly and providing the power needed to run a radio net within the trailer.
Unloading the trailers is relatively quick, considering almost everything can just be pulled out and set to the side. However, loading the trailers is time-consuming and can delay operations if relocation is required during an active incident.
Because this was an exercise, no medical or extrication equipment was leveraged so no evaluation was performed. This will be evaluated during and after our fall exercise.
Milestone briefings are often overlooked and should be considered an improvement opportunity for the program, as we tend to be anxious to send resources into the field. Remembering to pause at the top and ensure everyone is running on the same rail will mitigate overlap throughout the event.
Communications still proves to be a strength for Allen CERT. With the right equipment and skilled operators, we can establish a net and communicate effectively between teams to relay information and fold intelligence into the next phase of the incident action plan.
Communication cannot overstep documentation, and documentation cannot be done properly without communication before and during an assignment (e.g., assignment briefings, standardization, reporting criteria, etc.). Having a plethora of dry-erase boards was extremely helpful for tracking accountability.
The program has been purchasing equipment and supplies to greatly improve a mobile command experience. We are also working to create an activation playbook that will outline the progressive steps for notifying responders, establishing a command structure, developing an action plan, assigning tasks, and documenting results.
Overall, our response capabilities are excellent, as observed internally and externally. Additionally, we have an excellent baseline response time and any improvement to that metric will be considered a huge accomplishment.
Attending events and training opportunities is a great way to keep your skills sharp. Even the smallest of events can help sharpen a skill that folds into our holistic skill set.
Do you have ideas on how we can improve our capabilities? Our Monthly Membership Meeting is open to all members and is held at La Madeleine on the fourth Wednesday, 7:30 pm, of each month.