Keesler, Biloxi exercise accident response
By Senior Airman Duncan McElroy, 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
/ Published February 17, 2017
KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Keesler Air Force Base personnel partnered with Biloxi first responders to tackle a major accident and response exercise, Feb. 16, in Biloxi, Mississippi.
The exercise tested base and local emergency management organizations on their ability to respond to and recover from an off-base train derailment and chemical spill that affected military, civilian and marine wildlife zones.
“Training exercises like this are important because they help us keep our perishable response and recovery skills sharp,” said JD Donnett, Keesler Fire Department chief. “They also help us build relationships with our civilian counterparts and work on ways to solve problems as a collective.”
This specific scenario, categorized as a National Incident Management System Level 2 emergency, calls for a multi-agency and multi-jurisdiction response.
Base security forces, fire department and medical airmen stood up to assist on scene, while chapel, airman and family readiness, personnel, logistics, finance and more assisted throughout the recovery period.
“During a real-world incident like this we’d have to coordinate with agencies like the Department of Marine Resources, (U.S.) Coast Guard, CSX (the railroad company) and more, in addition to our civilian first response counterparts,” said Donnett, who is also the base incident commander. “But thanks to exercises like this, establishing communication within a large-scale unified command feels like a nearly seamless integration of our forces.”
Though Keesler’s first responders have an established working relationship with their local equivalents, joint exercises serve to strengthen those bonds.
“We enjoy a fantastic relationship with our community partners,” said Col. Danny Davis, 81st Mission Support Group commander. “Our first responders regularly interact with their civilian counterparts across the local communities. This regular interaction is critical and facilitates a healthy working relationship in the event we should ever have to respond to a unified crisis in the vicinity of the installation.”
Together, Team Keesler and Biloxi responders were able to handle treating dozens of ‘injured’ and the containment of hundreds of gallons of ‘released’ chemicals.
“Training is a cornerstone of our success in the Air Force,” said Davis, who is also the Emergency Operations Center director during exercise and real-world incidents. “It’s the foundation upon which we have built the world’s greatest Air Force.”