Thousands across the state gear up for Alaska Shield 2014|
Posted 3/25/2014 Updated 3/25/2014
by Capt. Melonie San Pietro
Alaskan Command Public Affairs
3/25/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the 1964 9.2-magnitude Great Alaska Earthquake, the State of Alaska will host Alaska Shield 2014 from March 27 to April 3. Federal, state and local authorities will join together to test interagency response in a natural disaster scenario.
Northern Command's Exercise Ardent Sentry, Joint Task Force-Alaska's Arctic Edge and the Alaska National Guard's Exercise Vigilant Guard and numerous other large-scale exercises will sync together under one vast exercise umbrella, Alaska Shield, to respond to a catastrophic natural disaster resembling the Great Alaska Earthquake.
In addition to the 10,000 Alaska-based Department of Defense assets taking part, 1,200 are deploying in from the lower 48 to participate. The State of Alaska, the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Army and Air National Guard, Joint Task Force-Alaska and many other federal, local and state agencies will play major roles in the exercise.
"In real life, all of these agencies would have to work together in response to a natural disaster, so it is important that they work together in an exercise setting," said Richard Everson, an exercise planner for Joint Task Force-Alaska.
"The state has had ambitious public outreach," Everson said. "The last Alaska Shield exercise in 2010 had over 4,000 interagency participants. We are expecting much higher numbers this year."
Not only are agencies participating, but entire communities are getting involved. Anchorage, Cordova, Fairbanks, Homer, Kenai Peninsula Borough, Kodiak, Juneau, and Matanuska-Susitna Borough are all heavily invested in the exercise.
A variety of scenarios, ranging from search and rescue to hazardous material spills to providing shelter and food for victims, are planned across the state of Alaska in these communities each day of the exercise.
For example, this Friday, Samaritan's Purse, an international relief organization, will deploy its Mobile Field Hospital along with a 22-person medical team of surgeons, physicians, nurses and anesthesiologists. Patients will arrive with simulated injuries like broken bones and hypothermia to simulate the injuries that would occur in an actual earthquake.
In Cordova, residents of an entire apartment building will practice a full evacuation. A simulated earthquake will also leave the harbor in shambles, leaving seven fishermen dead or injured. Participants will put on their survival suits and simulate the injured or dead fishermen by floating in the water until they are rescued.
Joint Logistics Over the Shore, or JLOTS, is a term the U.S. military uses to describe the loading and off-loading of ships in unimproved areas where ports are unavailable or damaged. The exercise will simulate that the Port of Anchorage is severely damaged by an earthquake making normal port operations impossible for immediate relief operations.
JLOTS will bring approximately 700 active-duty and Reserve Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen from all over the United States, said Everson. It will test their ability to reestablish port facilities, offload containers, equipment and bulk supplies, and transfer, store, and deliver fuel to the area.
According to The Great Alaska Shakeout website, an impressive 100,000 residents across Alaska have signed up to participate in the Great Alaska Shakeout. The goal of the event is to get organizations and families prepared for big earthquakes by practicing how to "drop, cover, and hold on", along with other aspects of emergency planning.
The overarching Alaska Shield 2014 exercise will provide participating organizations an opportunity to test procedures and refine the interagency partnerships critical in all phases of response to a catastrophic widespread natural disaster in Alaska.
It's also important to improve the ability of every resident in Alaska to respond to a natural disaster.
"Anyone remotely paying attention knows this exercise is going on," said Everson. "Because of the media coverage that is planned throughout the exercise, every Alaskan really has a great opportunity to learn from Alaska Shield."