Drill tests disaster coordination

by Krachel Greenwood

 

The Salvation Army participated this summer in the PATRIOT exercise, an annual domestic operations training drill sponsored by the National Guard Bureau and accredited by the Joint National Capability Program. The training focused on improving coordination with local, state and federal organizations and tested first responders in events such as mass casualty, aeromedical evacuation, collapsed structures and hospital evacuations.

More than 1,500 Air and Army National Guard members representing 33 states traveled to Volk Field, Wis., where The Salvation Army was represented by staff and volunteers from the Eastern Michigan, Heartland, Indiana, Metropolitan and Wisconsin and Upper Michigan divisions.

“The PATRIOT exercise provides a great opportunity for The Salvation Army to test our capabilities. This year we tested real-life hydration service with multiple events happening at the same time, along with amateur-radio communications and emotional and spiritual care,” said Terri Leece, Wisconsin and Upper Michigan divisional disaster services director and incident commander for The Salvation Army operation during the PATRIOT exercise. Crews put together 300 bag lunches and delivered them to National Guard members. Three canteens assisted.

In addition to providing food and hydration, The Salvation Army also tested radio communications by conducting field operations using the Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN). The SATERN amateur-radio operators provide communication assistance to Salvation Army teams who are providing services, such as mobile feeding and emotional and spiritual care.

“During this set up we found problems with our primary antenna system. However, knowing disasters, we always prepare by having redundancy. We put up our redundant antennas and were on the air providing necessary field communications. We always remember in a disaster, ‘Flexibility is the keyword.’ We can fix situations as we go,” said Bill Shillington, Central territorial SATERN coordinator and operations/logistics coordinator for the exercise.

Critical Incident and Stress Management (CISM) trained volunteers provided support to disaster victims and first responders by lending emotional and spiritual care.

“Our being here is by invitation because we train to CISM. We have a team of four participating, but the military chaplains only serve military so the civilian population shifted to The Salvation Army. That’s kind of daunting but also exciting,” said Major David Dalberg, Metropolitan divisional emergency disaster services director and spiritual care officer for the exercise.

Major Karen Hanton, Central territorial disaster training coordinator and operations chief during the PATRIOT exercise, was pleased with the Army’s overall performance.

“Through this training, The Salvation Army is able to better understand the role of the National Guard and how it can help support them during a disaster,” she said. “In return, the National Guard better understands the role of The Salvation Army so together they can work to help and restore hope to those affected by disaster.”

 

For information on becoming an emergency disaster services volunteer visit www.edscentral.org

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