The Kenai Peninsula area Citizens Emergency Response Team (CERT) held another local training scenario on Saturday, October 16th.According to Glenda Landua, Office of Emergency Management (OMB) program manager for the Kenai Peninsula Borough, the event was successfully carried out in cooperation with the Kenai Fire Department, the National Guard, and communication offices at Central Peninsula Hospital. The hypothetical incident was an offshore earthquake that generated a tsunami wave that impacted the mouth of the Kenai River, causing multiple areas of damage and personal injuries. CERT volunteers coordinated with the National Guard who provided transportation, in various degrees of emergency response including doing mock triage, search and rescue, first aid, as well as testing their ability to communicate between the different groups in time of emergency. "We even had a public information officer who came down from the State Department of Homeland Security who video taped the exercise, which we will be able to use for future training and letting people know what CERT is and why they might want to be involved with CERT in the future," Landua told the Dispatch in an interview.
According to National Guard Capt. Kang, there were multiple benefits for the community. "The exercise engaged multiple resources within the community and tested their ability to work together. What our National Guard surveillance reconnaissance scout unit in Kenai brought to the incident was not only the traditional work of soldiers such as filling sand bags, but surveillance assets as well. We mobilized our Humvees to transport folks to places they normally wouldn't be able to get to with civilian vehicles. We were also able to employ additional surveillance capabilities that can be used to enhance the ability to search for missing and injured people," said Capt. Kang.
With Alaska being one of the most active seismic areas on the North American continent, the scenario was a very probable situation and therefore very valuable to the community as well as those who participated in the exercise. "Having an armory in Kenai is a great advantage for the community, and is a resource that the Governor can use to provide direct assistance in time of an emergency where the response time is critical. We feel we are part of the community and that we can bring resources to the incident," added Kang. The post-event, or "after action" debriefing, brought all participants from mock victims to team players and safety officers, from all the agencies together to evaluate what went right and what could be done to improve response in a real-life situation as well as improving the next training event.
A stark illustration towards the importance of this type of preparedness training, can be made in looking a the death toll from last week's tsunami in Indonesia, which has already exceeded 300 with more victims expected to be found. Sadly, according to an Associated Press report, an Indonesian official stated that a warning system that was installed after the deadly ocean wave which caused multiple fatalities back in 2004, failed to serve its purpose in this recent event, because it had broken from a lack of maintenance. For more information on becoming a local CERT volunteer, contact Glenda Landua at OEM at (907)262-2098, or visit the Borough's website.
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