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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Cooler Weather Brings Joy in Many Ways

I am loving this time of year. It is not so much about the weather . . . although I am elated to have a fire in my fireplace. It is really about breathing a huge sigh of relief.

Last week was the culmination of 18 months of planning . . . the largest exercise in state history. This exercise, also known as Vigilant Guard, involved more than 8,000 participants representing over 250 agencies from every level of government.

Now that I can look back on it . . . there were some cool things achieved. Here are my top five favorite things about the exercise:

5) Statewide participation. Every county public health department and almost every hospital in the state participated. That is huge. From Kingman to Sells to Whiteriver and just about every place in between. They tested decon, communication systems, patient tracking and much more. Very cool to see the medical community come together in this way.

4) I got to know my neighbors. The AZ Division of Emergency Management (a small but mighty force of 60 full-timers) is collocated with the Arizona National Guard. Although many of us work in the same building, our missions and responsibilities are different … so our paths don’t always cross. Over the last few months we shared an exhaustive meeting schedule.

3) Cool photos. Generally when we do exercises at the state level it does not involve the “boots on the ground” movement of personnel and equipment . . you know the stuff that looks cool. This exercise integrated first responders with military resources.
(photo courtesty of Todd Tamcsin, American Red Cross)

2) Rubble pile. A rubble pile that simulated a collapsed building was constructed at the old Phoenix Fire Training Academy. This pile was designed to allow first responders to train in a realistic environment, but designed by engineers to ensure first responder safety. The rubble pile will remain and become part of future first responder training.

1) Relationships. I maintain a list of about 700+ of my peers . . .and last week I got to meet a few more or at least put a face with a name. It is often said that you don’t want to be exchanging business cards at a disaster. This exercise allowed many of us to work together and get a feel for our strengths and capabilities.

There actually were a few more cool things about the exercise but I must admit, with this exercise behind me . . . I am looking forward to some much needed vacation time and some relaxation by the fireplace.

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