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Patrick tests its crisis response

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Kicking off the 45th Space Wing's first major event in preparation for the upcoming 2007 Air Force Space Command Inspector General's Readiness Inspection, the wing conducted a local Major Accident Response Exercise Nov. 21.

Patrick fire, medical, and security forces personnel were among the first to arrive at the simulated accident site adjacent to the bulk fuel storage area. They were followed by environmental management, safety, civil engineering, public affairs, services and other specialists who make up the wing's Disaster Control Group.

Beginning with this exercise we've begun our public awareness ORI preparation campaign, said Robert Grijalva, Team Chief, 45 SW Exercise Evaluation Team.

"The purpose of this exercise was to evaluate the base's response to a major accident with both injuries and fatalities," said Mr. Grijalva. "We wanted to see how well organizations follow their checklists and notification procedures, obey safety requirements and conduct next of kin notifications when a fatality is involved."

As all these agencies went about their various tasks, exercise evaluation team members assessed whether or not the proper procedures were followed. Off-scene operations, such as base operations and the control tower personnel, the battlestaff, command post, legal, information management, the 45th Operations Support Squadron, transportation and the chaplain also were evaluated. More than 70 people took part in the MARE including the Exercise Evaluation Team.

"Overall, the exercise went quite smoothly," said Mr. Grijalva. "We did identify a few areas we need to work on, but that's what this is all about - finding any weaknesses or problems with our processes so we can make the necessary corrections and ensure we are ready to respond quickly and efficiently should a real-world emergency occur."

The Air Force Space Command Inspector General's office has tentatively scheduled the 45th Space Wing's ORI, Unit Readiness Inspection and Unit Compliance Inspection for sometime next spring. ORIs and local readiness exercises are two processes employed to ensure that the Air Force is consistently well prepared to operate and fulfill its mission.

According to IG officials, the inspections and exercises help units to identify opportunities for improvement, enhance readiness and maximize the efficiency of daily operations. They also train servicemembers on how to best perform their responsibilities, ensure compliance with plans, programs and established checklists, and to refine the various methods and processes.

A major accident response exercise like this one, Mr. Grijalva said, "is something that really puts our folks to the test as far as how quickly they can respond to an emergency."
Mr. Grijalva said the upcoming visit by the AFSPC/IG team will include a unit compliance inspection, which reviews base-wide functional and additional duty procedures, ensuring that Air Force instructions are being followed properly.

Next up, the 45th SW/IG's office will conduct a week-long mobility exercise Dec 4-8. Initial plans include the evaluation of activities involving mobility and cargo processing, weapon and equipment issue, unit control centers and unit deployment managers. "Don't wait, start preparing now ... readiness is everybody's mission," Mr. Grijalva said.