By Staff Sgt. Peter Dean, 107th Airlift Wing
11/10/2009 - Niagara Falls -- Traveling more than 1,900 miles from the tropical paradise of the Virgin Islands to the fall weather of Niagara Falls, members of the Virgin Islands National Guard came to participate and observe the recent Vigilant Guard exercise. The exercise simulated a 5.9 earthquake, devastating the Niagara region. Designed to create a realistic environment in which both civilian and military responders were able work together orchestrating a plan of attack, guiding search and rescue/recovery efforts. It also gave responders, medical personnel and logistics the ability to implement their training, giving them a platform to determine what works and what may need to be refined. "This is great opportunity to see firsthand the daily operations of an exercise of this magnitude," Lt. Col. Elvis Harvey, VING, Joint Force Headquarters, Plans and Policy Officer. "I've taken a lot of notes," he added."We're slated to hold our own Vigilant Guard exercise in 2014," said Master Sgt. Myrtle Roberts, VING, Joint Force Headquarters. "It will probably be a hurricane or some sort of tropical storm," she added.According to Sgt. Maj. Eugenie Santos, VING, Joint Force Headquarters, the VING has responded to numerous hurricanes in the past. "Some of the training is a refresher for us," said Sgt. Maj. Santos. "But it's nice knowing how other branches operate," she added."This is time well spent," said Command Sgt. Maj. Pedro Morales, VING, Joint Force Headquarters. "We are getting to see how other states operate, he added. "It's a two way street, we have responded to many storms," said Command Sgt. Maj. Pedro Morales. "We will share our way of responding and also take home many lessons," he added.All the comments from the VING members echoed the same sentiments, despite the frigid temperatures of Western New York; this was a worthwhile trip, enabling them to take valuable information back to the soldiers of the Virgin Islands.
11/8/2009 - Niagara Falls, N.Y. -- The Naval Militia, a group of sailors comprised of prior service, active reservists Navy, Coast Guard and Marines spent the week of Nov. 1st playing a key role in a recent Vigilant Guard exercise.
The exercise that simulated an earthquake that measured a 5.9 on the Richter scale devastated the Niagara region. The weeklong exercise held in Niagara Falls, New York enabled both military and civilian responders to either accomplish new training or complete refresher training in a realistic environment.
Each civilian agency or military unit had their own specific tasks to accomplish. For the New York Naval Militia it was to provide search and rescue/recovery and security on area waterways. Throughout the week, the NYNM spent their days patrolling the waterways in search of anything out of the norm. That could be a stranded boater, a simulated collapsed structure either over the water or at the waters edge, or an evildoer up to no good.
"This is a great opportunity to get hands-on-training in a very realistic scenario," said Master Chief Petty Officer Robert "Captain Bob" Clark. "This scenario is an invaluable resource, putting our training to the test," he added. "Captain Bob" has a long history of military service both in the Navy and in the Air Force.
Although "Captain Bob" has not served on duty status with the 107th Airlift Wing, as the husband of Master Sgt. Sue Clark, 107th AW headquarters, he is a valued member of the 107th family. "This is what we're trained to do," said BM1 Angel Santos, the Coxswain (boat driver).
"It's rewarding getting the opportunity to put our skills to the test," he added. The NYNM has along history of military service dating back to the Revolutionary War. In 1776 the first naval battle was fought on Lake Champlain, the sailors on board the ships of the small American squadron were New York Militiamen.
More than a century later the U.S. Navy's proposed national Naval Reserve Force Bill was defeated in congress. The defeat didn't deter the determined Militiamen from using the Navy's organizational plans to establish numerous Naval Militias groups throughout the states.
In 1892 during the Spanish American War the New York Naval Militia was called upon to escort and protect passenger steam ships. Since that time the NYNM has been called upon to support numerous wars such as WWI, WWII and the Korean War.
To date the NYNM is the only Federally recognized Naval Militia with a history of unbroken military service dating back to the Revolutionary War. This continuous service is sure to be carried and passed on by the proud, dedicated men and women presently severing in the NYNM for years to come.
"I'm very proud of my men and women," said Clark. "They performed their mission to the T, they are true professionals," he added. The NYNM much like the New York National Guard has a dual role, standing ready to answer the call from both state and nation. The greatest difference is that the NYNM members perform their duties solely on pride, duty and their love for their country.
For they receive no financial compensation, no drill pay, no annual training days just the satisfaction that they are making a difference. "This is a great organization with great people," said BM2 Peter Knezevic. I'm proud to be a member of the militia," he added.
If you are interested in joining the ranks of the New York Naval Militia, log on to http://www.dmna.state.ny.us/nynm/naval.php?id=join for more information.
The Vigilant Guard Exercise News Magazine(Click to view)
Faults Underlying Exercise Vigilant Guard
Scenario Built on Possibility of Earthquakes
By Staff Sgt. Raymond Drumsta
TONAWANDA, NY - An earthquake in western New York, the scenario that Exercise Vigilant Guard is built around, is not that far-fetched, according to University of Buffalo geology professor Dr. Robert Jacobi.
When asked about earthquakes in the area, Jacobi pulls out a computer-generated state map, cross-hatched with diagonal lines representing geological faults.
The faults show that past earthquakes in the state were not random, and could occur again on the same fault systems, he said.
“In western New York, 6.5 magnitude earthquakes are possible,” he said.
This possibility underlies Exercise Vigilant Guard, a joint training opportunity for National Guard and emergency response organizations to build relationships with local, state, regional and federal partners against a variety of different homeland security threats including natural disasters and potential terrorist attacks.
The exercise was based on an earthquake scenario, and a rubble pile at the Spaulding Fibre site here was used to simulate a collapsed building. The scenario was chosen as a result of extensive consultations with the earthquake experts at the University of Buffalo’s Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research (MCEER), said Brig. Gen. Mike Swezey, commander of 53rd Troop Command, who visited the site on Monday.
Earthquakes of up to 7 magnitude have occurred in the Northeastern part of the continent, and this scenario was calibrated on the magnitude 5.9 earthquake which occurred in Saguenay, Quebec in 1988, said Jacobi and Professor Andre Filiatrault, MCEER director.
“A 5.9 magnitude earthquake in this area is not an unrealistic scenario,” said Filiatrault.
Closer to home, a 1.9 magnitude earthquake occurred about 2.5 miles from the Spaulding Fibre site within the last decade, Jacobi said. He and other earthquake experts impaneled by the Atomic Energy Control Board of Canada in 1997 found that there’s a 40 percent chance of 6.5 magnitude earthquake occurring along the Clareden-Linden fault system, which lies about halfway between Buffalo and Rochester, Jacobi added.
Jacobi and Filiatrault said the soft soil of western New York, especially in part of downtown Buffalo, would amplify tremors, causing more damage.
“It’s like jello in a bowl,” said Jacobi.
The area’s old infrastructure is vulnerable because it was built without reinforcing steel, said Filiatrault. Damage to industrial areas could release hazardous materials, he added.
“You’ll have significant damage,” Filiatrault said.
Exercise Vigilant Guard involved an earthquake’s aftermath, including infrastructure damage, injuries, deaths, displaced citizens and hazardous material incidents. All this week, more than 1,300 National Guard troops and hundreds of local and regional emergency response professionals have been training at several sites in western New York to respond these types of incidents.
Jacobi called Exercise Vigilant Guard “important and illuminating.”
“I’m proud of the National Guard for organizing and carrying out such an excellent exercise,” he said.
Training concluded Thursday.
Story and Photo’s By SSG Dennis Gravelle, 369th Sustainment Brigade
Niagara Falls, N.Y. -- Being ready to keep Americans safe from another terrorist attack, being foreign or domestic is a job that the citizen Soldiers of the National Guard take very seriously, especially when training.
A Vigilant Guard exercise held the first week in November provided an opportunity for National Guard Soldiers to practice emergency response operations and to show that they are ready for any kind of incident.
During the exercise the 2nd Civil Support Team received an 18 month external evaluation at a vacant Public Safety Building on Hyde Park Blvd. in Niagara Falls, November 5th, 2009.
“The reason we are here today is that we are conducting the periodic evaluation for the 2nd Civil Support Team, Weapon of Mass Destruction,” said Daniel Robbins, division chief, civil support readiness group east. “Our evaluation cycle is 18 months, and we to determine the proficiency of the core competence of the 2nd CST.
The scenario for the evaluation was that the Niagara Falls Police Department recently caught a leader of a terrorist cell from Canada, and the rest of the cell is still at large. The lead investigator received a letter in the mail with a white powder substance in it, and a day later the investigator became ill. Hospital reports confirmed the white powder was anthrax.
According to Thomas E. Benton, the deputy commander of 2nd CST, there is another envelop in the building that may be similar to the one that the lead investigator opened and local authorities needed the assistance of the 2nd CST to retrieve the letter and analyze it.
The mission of the CST is to support civil authorities at a domestic Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, High Yield Explosive (CBRNE) Enhanced Response Force Package, CBRNE incident site by identifying CBRNE agents/substances and assess current and projected consequences and advise on appropriate measures and assist with appropriate requests for state response.
“We assist the incident commander with communications, medical advice, and of course identifying the substance that may be in the area, then advice on how to address the situation, once we know what were dealing with,” Benton said. “I like to think of it as a hazardous material team on steroids; we have a lot of capabilities that we can bring to the table.”
Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster added that the city has a large industrial and critical power infrastructure and draws a lot of tourism throughout the year. Therefore, they are a high profile place and needs to be constantly vigilant in the field of homeland security.
“We know that we can’t do everything locally, in-spite of our best efforts, from our public safety departments, to be able to protect our citizens, but also be certain that nothing happens here,” he said. “We welcome the assistance of the National Guard, we know they are here to back us up if we have a contingency that we can’t handle and we are happy to assist them in any way possible.”
According to Robbins, each CST has a total of 12 tasks that must be completed for evaluation that encompasses their full mission and provides for the tasks and sections of the teams. Each of the seven sections has subtasks and sub missions they must be able to perform.
“The 2nd CST is one of the original teams that was established in 1999,” Robbins said. “This team is always at the top of their game, and has always been able to demonstrate a high level of proficiency at their tasks.”
News from New York State Division of Military & Naval Affairs
For more information contact: Lt. Col. Paul Fanning (cell) 518-441-4106
State's largest emergency response exercise deemed overwhelming success
ERIE COUNTY EMERGENCY OPERATIONS CENTER, CHEEKTOWAGA (11/05/2009)(readMedia)-- The state's largest joint military and civil authority emergency response exercise concluded today in Western New York where more than 1,300 National Guard troops along with hundreds of civilian emergency response professionals have been simulating an earthquake disaster since last Friday.
Exercise participants from special disaster response Guard units, urban search and rescue teams and emergency management professionals from numerous agencies and departments have been working diligently in the region since Monday, when troops arrived at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Base on Sunday following activation by Governor David Paterson.
"The exercise has gone extremely well and we have experienced a level of coordination and interaction among military and civil authority partners that we have never achieved in previous training efforts," said Brig. Gen. Mike Swezey of the New York National Guard. "The Guard is grateful for the enthusiastic and dedicated involvement of local, state and federal partners. We have completed the exercise play and have now begun the after action reviews so that we can capture lessons learned."
"It's clear to all right now that the benefits of our collective efforts will be felt long after," he added.
"We are grateful for the cooperation and support from the community that enabled us to train here," the general said. "The ongoing support we as service members receive everyday from people at home is deeply felt and sincerely appreciated, whether we are serving here in New York or deployed overseas."
"This has been a great opportunity for Erie County and our local communities from the very beginning," said Greg Skibitsky, Commissioner of Erie County Emergency Services. "Holding an exercise like this not only provides real training value to the professionals that conduct hands-on response as well as emergency management, but also provides the opportunity for networking among the many and various agencies and departments that will be involved when a real disaster strikes."
"This will lift participants up in preparedness for the next emergency --and there is sure to be one, some time, some day in the future," Skibitsky said.
Under the scenario, the earthquake strike had devastated homes, businesses, highways and bridges and produced numerous deaths, injuries and displaced people. The affects overwhelmed local authorities who reached out for state and military assistance.
Training locations included the former Spaulding Fibre Plant site in Tonawanda, unused buildings in Lockport and Niagara Falls, additional military security support at the Buffalo-Niagara airport, a military command post at the Connecticut Street armory in Buffalo and the Erie County Emergency Operations Center in Cheektowaga.
"We have had more participation from urban search and rescue and Guard emergency response teams in this exercise than has ever happened before," said Brian Rousseau, Deputy Chief of Special Operations, New York State Office of Fire Protection and Control. "I have heard directly from many observers including FEMA, that the approach used here in Vigilant Guard should be considered a national model," he said.
"This has been far above and beyond what anyone else has ever done. For the first time we have joined local, state, national and even international teams for a common training experience. The value for boots-on-the-ground performers and emergency managers has been enormous," Rousseau said.
"The key to this event has been to bring as many partners as possible together for a shared training experience," said Tim Riecker, training manager for the New York State Emergency Management Office. "Erie County took the lead in this effort and participants have come from local, state, federal and international departments and agencies. We are still measuring and quantifying the lessons and benefits gained and there are many," he added.
Vigilant Guard is a national exercise program sponsored by the National Guard Bureau and United States Northern Command. It is a training opportunity for National Guard forces for state emergency response and serves as a means to exercise relationships with local, state, regional and federal partners.
More than 1,300 National Guard troops from New York and other states were committed along with local, state, national and international emergency response units and agencies. The exercise resulted in realistic training focused on protecting lives and property. Across the nation there are four Vigilant Guard exercises annually and this was the first time it was conducted in New York state.
TONAWANDA, NY – “Purple suits” is a frequently used phrase used to denote interoperability among the United States Military branches – soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines working together.
In the post 9-11 age, with military forces joining forces with civilian authorities and first responders in things like Exercise Vigilant Guard, that purple has taken on a deeper shade.
Civilian authorities like the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Urban Search and Rescue Team put some more blue in the purple on Tuesday as team members Paul Medeiroso, an emergency medical technician, and Tim Robinson, a paramedic, trained with Massachusetts
troops at the Spaulding Fibre in Tonawanda.
The FEMA personnel helped troops perform triage on mock earthquake victims in a simulated collapsed building known as the rubble pile, and showed at least one soldier how to cut up a crushed car with tools like the jaws of life and other tools. Citing 9-11 and the Oklahoma City bombing, Medeiroso said civil authorities and military forces have worked together on many occasions.
“The list is endless,” he said, adding that events like Exercise Vigilant Guard are vital to honing command and control during disasters. He appeared to enjoy working with the soldiers and airmen on the rubble pile.
“They were doing a good job with the resources they have,” he said. “We were talking the same language.”
Robinson said their team’s mission is to rescue victims from collapsed concrete buildings. They’re based in in Beverley, Massachusetts, he added, and train regularly with the New Hampshire National Guard.
“We work together all the time,” he said. The Massachusetts troops positive intentions should bolstered by more training and work with real patients, he added.
Prior to deploying, New Hampshire National Guard members rode with them in ambulances, which gave them “real world patient contact,” Robinson said.
“These skills erode over time,” he said. Joint disaster exercises give military forces and civil authorities to learn each other’s roles and capabilities build relationships and build bonds of trust, he added.
“When you come to the scene of a disaster, it’s nice to see people you recognize,” he said.
The FEMA Urban Rescue Team and Massachusetts National Guard are just some of the civil and military forces taking part in Exercise Vigilant Guard, a joint training opportunity for National Guard and emergency response organizations to build relationships with local, state, regional and federal partners against a variety of different homeland security threats including natural disasters and potential terrorist attacks.
Exercise Vigilant Guard is a national exercise sponsored by the National Guard Bureau and United States Northern Command. The Tonawanda site is just one area in Western New York being used for the exercise, which more than 1300 National Guard troops and hundreds of local and regional emergency response professionals are taking part in.
By Eric Durr, Division of Military and Naval Affairs
LATHAM--They don’t get down and dirty like the Soldiers and Airmen in the field, but when the National Guard deploys forces in aid of civil authorities in New York, the 30 people who staff the New York State Joint Operations Center (JOC) kick into high gear too.
The state-of-the art command and control center in Division of Military and Naval Affairs Headquarters in Latham is modeled after command centers in Iraq and Afghanistan. The $280,000 facility has space for the key players on the headquarters team--operations, intelligence, personnel, logistics, and communications--and space for liaisons from Army Aviation, the Air National Guard, the 42nd Infantry Division, 53rd Troop Command, and liaison officers and NCOs from other states.
The job of the JOC is to take the information flowing in from around the state, and help the Adjutant General make decisions, explained Major Robert Stabb, the JOC Officer in charge.
They do this by keeping track of the COP, military-speak for the Common Operational Picture, a visualization of the operation and the terrain its happening on that, ideally, is uniform at all command levels.
To do this the command center is equipped with five video screens which allow key information, news reports, video transmitted from the scene, and briefing slides to be shown simultaneously. A specially built “Disaster-LAN” software system, modeled on that used by the New York State Emergency Management Office allows the JOC staff to track and pass information among themselves and commands in the field.
For the JOC team, Vigilant Guard kicked off on Friday, Oct. 30, when the notional earthquake hit the Buffalo area. For the next week the JOC tracked the real world flow of troops into and out of the exercise, while also responding to exercise generated problems and incorporating changes into their processes.
The JOC staff learned what worked, what didn’t work, and what they needed to do better to track the operation and paint that accurate COP.
“It was a good depiction of a real world situation,” said intelligence analyst Sgt. Erin Martin, a member of the J-2 Section who deployed to Afghanistan with the 27th Brigade Combat Team in 2008.
The analysis skills she honed in a combat zone came in handy, but in a different way, Martin said. In combat she was trying to predict what the Taliban would do next, in this situation the role was to analyze the area and determine what risks and hazards area civilians and relief forces would face so the risks could be mitigated.
“This is what they pay us to do,” said Lt. Col. Ron Ridner, deputy director of domestic operations. “ We need to capture everything and learn from it.”
Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station--Medics load mock casualties in to a C-130 for transport for further treatment. The medics from many different states joined together at the Niagara Air Reserve Station during the week of Nov. 1 for a Vigilant Guard exercise. The exercise simulated a 5.9 earth quake that devastated the region. The medics along with more than 2000 military and civilian responders participated in this Vigilant Guard exercise. The exercise is designed to provide continuity between military and civilian responders in the event of a real life emergency, whether, natural or manmade.
As Exercise Vigilant Guard moves into the final day of action, emergency response providers in this theoretical world are getting a better picture of the damage that has been done to the region.
The chart above, taken from the daily Joint Operations Center update briefing summarizes the impact of the earthquake on major bridges.
The National Guard, meanwhile. has deployed more than 1,300 troops into the effected area to work with state, local, and federal responders.
In the world of the exercise 435 people are dead and 1,038 are still injured and require treatment.
Here's the latest report on the aftermath of the notional earthquake that the Vigilant Guard Participants are responding to.
Buffalo EOC reports a major fire in the area of Linden Avenue, Rugby Road, and Colvin Avenue in
Buffalo, probably sparked by residents burning fires to keep warm. Fire services in affected area
reduced to 20% of pre-earthquake capacity.
Kensington Expressway. Structural damage has obstructed virtually all road networks in the
Buffalo/Niagara Fall corridor, including I-190, LaSalle Expressway East and Niagara Falls Blvd.
Liquification of ground (soil turning into liquid) causing major infrastructure damage
Multiple large building collapses have occurred with injuries, several HAZMAT releases reported,
one with casualties. Local jurisdictions report extremely heavy traffic along alternate routes, further
exacerbating already difficult traffic problems.
primary voice and data connectivity between jurisdictions and critical services (e.g. police, fire,
Current damage totals reported:
6,500 buildings destroyed / 17,000 damaged
Also: Check out Vigilant Guard Video here:
New York Army National Guard Soldiers get some instruction on search and rescue and extraction techniques from a member of one of the 14 civilian urban search and rescue teams that are participating in the exercise, including teams from Canada.
Observers from Mexico, South Africa and Denmark are also on hand to watch the National Guard and Niagara Frontier emergency service responders work together.
When members of the Army and Air National Guard want to talk about ensuring that everybody knows what's going on, they talk about making sure that everyone shares the same COP, that's milspeak for a Common Operating Picture.
In a conventional battlefield the COP ordinarily referred to the map on which the positions of all the units were displayed on the battlefield. A favorite trick of evaluators during command post exercises is to take photographs of the different maps in different command posts at the same time on the same day and then find out if they look even remotely alike!!
When it comes to Defense Support to Civil Authorities, which is the military term for providing military help to local governments at the direction of the Governor or President, COP means ensuring that everybody understands not only where unit are but also what they are capable of doing, when they can move onto another mission, who they are working with, and when they need to rest.
Making sure the COP is shared across the command is the job of staff officers and commanders at all levels. And while the COP consists of a vast amount of data points, map showing where everybody is on the ground is still a key part of that.
The map above indicates where elements of the New York National Guard are located in the Niagara Frontier Region during this exercise.
The rectangle with MEBS written on it refers to a watercraft operated by the New York Naval Militia's Military Emergency Boat Service. The E lying on it's side with three dots above it shows that a platoon (about 30 Soldiers) of the 204th Engineer Battalion is operating in that location.Because it is green that shows it is an army unit.
The Purple rectangle labled CREFP indicates where specially trained response forces are training to extract victims from a collapsed building. It's purple color indicates that it includes members of both the Army and Air National Guard.
The blue rectable labled NGRF, for National Guard Response Forces, indicates Security Squadron Airmen of the New York Air National Guard who are assisting local police at Buffalo Niagra International Airport.
The green rectangle with cross inside plots the location of theArmy Guard's 466th Area Medical Support Company's team medic, while the crossed retorts of the Chemical Corps show where the 1st Civil Support Team, a joint Army-Air Guard force, is working.--Eric Durr, Division of Military and Naval Affairs
TONAWANDA, NY – While it seems like an odd wardrobe choice, the Massachusetts National Guard CERFP team members say their physical training uniforms are well-suited for their mission: to find, decontaminate and evacuate disaster victims.
The Massachusetts CERFP team is one of several such elements taking part in Exercise Vigilant Guard, a joint training opportunity for National Guard and emergency response organizations to build relationships with local, state, regional and federal partners against a variety of different homeland security threats including natural disasters and potential terrorist attacks.
A rubble pile at the Spaulding Fibre Site in Tonawanda is being used to simulate a building destroyed by an earthquake, and CERFP teams are tasked with rescuing victims from it. The acronym CERFP stands for Chemical, Biological, Radiological/Nuclear, and Explosive (CBRNE) - Enhanced Response Force Package, and team members must don decontamination suits, gasmasks, rubber boots, rubber gloves and hardhats before they mount the rubble pile to find and decontaminate casualties.
While they stood out among their camouflage-clad Army and Air National Guard counterparts at the Spaulding Fibre site on Tuesday, First Sgt. Paul Marcinek of the CERFP team explained that deploying there in physical training uniforms, commonly known as PT clothes, is all about speed and safety.
“It’s faster, and safer for the soldiers and airmen,” he said. “If it’s 80 degrees outside, it’s 90 degrees in the suit.” Wearing PT clothes on these missions has been their standard operating procedure, said Marcinek, who hails from Holyoke, Massachusetts.
The PT clothes are more comfortable to wear under the protective gear, said Sgt. Michael Palmer, of Lynnfield, Massachusetts.
“You can get pretty dehydrated in these suits,” he said.
Apart from the rubble pile and troops in PT clothes, the Spaulding Fibre site looked like a typical field problem on Tuesday, complete with dirt now churned to glutinous ooze by rain and vehicle traffic. The CERFP team members had no dry place to stand while pulling on their suits and rubber boots.
But Palmer said he preferred the rainy and colder weather.
“I’d take this over a 80 to 90 degree day anytime,” he said.
Exercise Vigilant Guard is a national exercise sponsored by the National Guard Bureau and United States Northern Command. The Spaulding Fibre Site is just one area being used for the exercise, which more than 1300 National Guard troops and hundreds of local and regional emergency response professionals are taking part in.
National Guard Bureau Chief General Craig McKinley speaks with Erie County Office of Emergency Services Commissioner Gregg Skibitsky during a visit to the Erie County Emergency Operations Center in Cheektowaga, NY.
Gen. McKinley, the highest ranking officer in the National Guard of the United States visited Western New York on Wednesday, Nov. 4 to check on the progress of Vigilant guard, the largest combined civil/military training exercise ever held in New York.
Major General Joseph Taluto, the Adjutant General of New York, accompanied Gen. McKinley to the training locations.
By SSG Dennis Gravelle,369th Sustainment Brigade
The largest military/civilian disaster response exercise ever held in New York brought more than 1,300 troops from five states to the Niagara Frontier the first week of November, 2009.
The drill, part of the Vigilant Guard exercise series run by United States Northern Command and National Guard Bureau, gives National Guard Forces the chance to practice emergency response operations with local, state, regional and federal partners against both natural disasters and terrorist attack.
“Vigilant Guard is an opportunity for military and civilian professionals to train together and prepare for a potential catastrophe we all naturally hope will never happen,” said Brig. Gen Michael Swezey, commander of the Guard’s Joint Task Force 6. “This exercise was developed from lessons learned from the terrorist attacks on 9-11 and from Hurricane Katrina.”
In the exercise scenario an earthquake measuring 5.9 on the Richter Scale hit near the City of Buffalo on Oct 30, at 2pm. The earthquake casued tremendous damage to the urban core of Buffalo, Erie County and southern Niagara County. The National Guard was called out by the Governor to support the local emergency responders.
“Governor Patterson understands as much as any of us how important it is that we all work together to become prepared, to be able to respond to any emergency, to any disaster that we face here in New York State,” said Denise O’Donnell, the state’s deputy secretary for public safety.
To make the earthquake exercise more realistic a rubble pile was created at the former Spaulding Fiber Plant in Tonawanda, and casualties were placed on the rock to simulate a disaster scene so that specialized National Guard and emergency response teams could work together to practice life saving skills.
“From the start of the exercise we have had numerous agencies out there, mostly military doing site surveys to start us off, looking over the rubble pile , looking over the potential for what we had to do,” said Donald McFeeley, incident commander, and Buffalo Fire Department division chief. “They checked the area for hazardous materials, and what issues that might present a problem for search and rescue teams”
Checking for hazardous materials is the responsibility of the Civil Support Team. Upon direction of the Governor, the Adjutant General (TAG) will employ the CST to augment local and regional terrorism response capabilities in events known or suspected to be the target of Weapons of Mass Destruction. The team may also be used as a state or federal resource in times on natural disaster, during a large scale release of toxic chemicals threatening life or property, or other incidents of national significance.
McFeeley added that the military is a good asset to ask for when you need help. The armed forces have a lot of assets that they bring to the table, from medical to people that can just help out, he explained.
“This is the first time I have worked with the Military and the communication has been great,” McFeeley said. “They were very approachable and basically told us they we under our command, I have nothing but good things to say about them.”
After the scene has been cleared by the CST the long process of removing casualties from a disaster area to begin decontamination and medical treatment begins. That mission belongs to the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, High Yield Explosive (CBRNE) Enhanced Response Force Package (CERF-P) Mission.
The CERF-P is comprised of four functional elements, command and control, casualty search and extraction, casualty decontamination, and medical. Specified Army and Air National Guard Units are tasked to provide the capabilities in addition to their regularly assigned missions. Army National Guard Chemical Companies typically provide the decontamination capability and Engineer Companies typically provide the search and extraction capability. These specialized units will have specialized equipment and training to perform operations in a Weapons of Mass Destruction WMD environment. In order to establish the medical element quickly without duplicating capabilities, the Air National Guard medical groups provide the medical capability. These highly skilled personnel may also be augmented by Army Guard Medical personnel at the discretion of the TAG.
“CERF-P is a mass decontamination Task Force that will aid citizens of this country in times of natural disasters or terrorist attack,” said 1st Lt. John L. Passarotti, officer in charge for the New York Guard, the all-volunteer state militia which augments the National Guard “We have a search and extraction element that removes people from demolished buildings, we bring them to our decontamination lines where we wash the contamination off them, then we bring them to out medical service providers where they receive fist aid, and then they are shipped to area hospitals to receive further care.”
According to Dr. Robert D. Jacobi, PhD, University of Buffalo professor of geology, the likelihood of a significant seismic event occurring in Western NY is not as remote as one would think.
“During the past 20 years, geologic research that I have conducted with my colleagues at the University of Buffalo and other institutions has led to an understanding that, contrary to the conventional wisdom, western NY, in fact, the entire state, is crisscrossed by literally hundreds of faults,” he said. “Many of them, including the largest in our area, the Clarandon-Linden Fault, remain seismically active today.”
John R. Gibb, director of the NY State Emergency Management Office (SEMO) added that the citizens of NY State expect State and local forces to work together when incidents large or small strike their communities. It’s through these exercises that we practice our plans and hone our skills to ensure a quick and effective response. Vigilant Guard will help us to collectively enhance our response and recovery capabilities in the region.
“Much time and effort has gone into making this a meaningful training exercise that will someday help save lives in an emergency situation, that’s what makes this training so very, very important,” said Tonawanda Mayor Ron Pilozzi, and Vietnam Veteran.
As Exercise Vigilant Guard moves ahead on Wednesday, Nov. 4, more than 1,400 National Guard Soldiers and Airmen, along with mebmers of the New York Guard and the New York Naval Militia, the state's two-state defense forces, are involved in the exercise in New York City, Albany, and the Niagara Frontier.
On Wednesday the New York Naval Militia will work with members of a New York National Guard team that is specially trained to evaluate industrial infrastructure for weakness, as they simulate evaluating damaged buildings along the Niagara River.
The exercise scenario now identifies 358 deaths and 6,678 injured people in the area, with a breakdown insecurity.
Here's what is going on now in exercise land:
Civilian population reacting with increasing concerns about security and
unavailability of basic services. Low probability of survival for victims trapped
beyond an additional 24 hours.
Fire at Oxbow Power Generation Facility continues, with residential fires out of
control on Wilber Ave. Erie County requested air evacuation of 175 ICU, NICU,
PICU patients from damaged hospitals.
Erie county reports several overpasses collapsed, on Scajaquada Expressway,
Highway 190, and Kensington Expressway. Area roads have cracked with
segments that have shifted vertically as much as 20 inches.
Multiple large building collapses have occurred with injuries, several HAZMAT
releases reported, one with casualties. Reports of looting and criminal activity, and
curfews have been established in Buffalo, Tonawanda, and Cheektowaga. Local
jurisdictions report extremely heavy traffic along alternate routes, further
exacerbating already difficult traffic problems.
Red Cross housing 15,327, with an est. 5,479 camping near their homes
215,000 area residents without power or heat, est. 1 week to restore
8,700 households without potable water, Erie Co. Boil Water Adv.
60% of Erie Co. without telephones, many without internet
Clearance of obstructions and patching segments of road to allow flow of
traffic will require heavy repair capability and construction support.
- I-190, Hwy 198, and State Hwy 33 remain ruptured
Maj. Gen. Joseph J. Taluto, New York State adjutant general (right) speaks with Massachusetts Army National Guard CERFP team members at the Spaulding Fibre site in Tonawanda during Exercise Vigilant Guard on Tuesday. Earlier, the soldiers practiced rescuing mock casualties from the simulated earthquake disaster area, or rubble pile, located at the site. The soldiers are, from left: Spc. Mark Williams, Spc. David Lyons and Sgt. Randy Isaacs.
Lockport- Massachusetts Army National Guard Commander Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Sellars and Massachusetts National Guard Command Sgt. Major David Costa join (left) join members of the Massachusetts National Guard’s 1st Civil Support Team on Tuesday, Nov. 3, during Exercise Vigilant Guard being held here. The Massachusetts Guardsmen and women, who are specially trained to detect hazardous materials and special weapons, are among 1,300 National Guard Soldiers and Airmen from New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Massachusetts, and the U.S. Virgin Island who are participating in the exercise, which simulates a major earthquake in the Niagara Falls area.
Members of the Massachusetts National Guard's 1st Civil Support Team moved into the mix on Tuesday , an office and commerical building on Walnut St. in the old Erie Canal town of Lockport, New York . The site includes a rubble pile that replicates a destroyed and contaminated building.
The National Guard's CSTs are designed to detect the presence of chemical, biological, and radiological weapons or hazardous materials and then inform civil and military responders on the kind of threat they face.
The CST normally moves onto a site before a National Guard CERFP, a team trained to rescue and decontaminate victims of a WMD attack, or its civilian equivalent.
Massachusetts has contributed a CERFP as well as their CST to the exercise.
Other exercise events on Tuesday, Nov. 3, included the medical evacuation by air of casualties, and the continued processing of more National guard troops coming into the area.
More than 1,000 National Guard Soldiers and Airmen have moved into western New York in response to a simulated earthquake which struck the region on Friday, In exercise land more than 360 people are dead and 6,000 injured and the National Guard forces are part of the response to the disaster.
TONAWANDA, NY (11/03/2009--It's like a disaster area - which is the whole point for New York National Guard forces taking part in Exercise Vigilant Guard in Western New York this week.
These forces took on the disaster Monday afternoon, mounting a rubble pile at the Spaulding Fibre Site in Tonawanda to rescue mock earthquake victims. The pile simulates a building destroyed by an earthquake, and the mock victims, lying on or in the rubble, provided more realism for the training exercise.
Vigilant Guard is a national exercise program sponsored by the National Guard Bureau and United States Northern Command to provide a joint training opportunity for National Guard and emergency response organizations to build relationships with local, state, regional and federal partners against a variety of different homeland security threats including natural disasters and potential terrorist attacks.
The Spaulding Fibre Site is just one area being used for this training, which more than 1300 National Guard troops and hundreds of local and regional emergency response professionals are taking part in. The troops on the rubble pile Monday were part of a task force called CERFP, or Chemical, Biological, Radiological/Nuclear, and Explosive (CBRNE) - Enhanced Response Force Package.
Composed of medical personnel from the New York Air National Guard and military police and engineers from the New York Army National Guard, CERFP's mission is to find the casualties, extract them from the rubble, decontaminate them, treat their injuries and evacuate them from the disaster area.
On Monday, CERFP deployed to the Spaulding Fibre Site and set up decontamination and medical treatment areas. Then CERFP members, dressed in sweltering decontamination suits, gasmasks, rubber boots, rubber gloves and hardhats, mounted the rubble pile to find casualties, move them off the rubble pile to the treatment areas.
The pile is composed of unstable concrete slabs, rusty steel plates and a pair of crushed cars. Pfc. Brandon Preisch, who was part of the group rescuing casualties, felt the pile lent realism to the earthquake scenario.
"It looks like a building collapsed," said Preisch, of the 27th Brigade. "There's debris everywhere." It was tiring work "especially in the suits," and the mask sometimes made it difficult to walk on the shifting debris, he added.
"When it fogs up, it gets kind of hairy, because you can't see," he said. Rescuers had to be careful of falling in the rubble, which contained pieces of broken rebar, he added.
While the pile made for a treacherous work environment, the wounded - who were dressed up in fake wounds and pretending to cry for help - motivated him to move quickly, said CERFP member Pvt. Jeremy Glynn of the 27th Brigade.
"Your blood starts pumping, and you really want to get those people out of the there," he said.
In this scenario, the medical personnel from the New York Air Guard would expect to treat crush injuries, respiratory conditions and exposure to hazardous materials, said Air Guard Capt. Kelly Hall, medical plans and operations officer for CERFP. Hall, of the 174th Fighter Wing, said they would perform a fast triage and quickly stabilize victims for evacuation.
"The key thing is to get the patients out of the disaster area to definitive care as soon as possible," she said. The airmen, she added, have been doing exercises like this since 2005, and some of the medics are even skilled in confined-space rescues.
"We're trained for this," she said.--Staff Sgt. Ray Drumsta, New York Army National Guard
Two Members of the New York National Guard CERFP (CBERN Enhanced Force Response Package)-- a team of National Guard Soldiers and Airmen specially trained to extract people from buildings destroyed by special weapons--move a simulated casualty from the "rockpile" on Monday Nov. 2 as Exercise Vigilant Guard kicked into high gear in Tonawanda.
The 105th Military Police Company provides the decontamination team for the CERFP, while the 102nd Military Police Battalion is the command and control headquarters. The 152nd Engineer Company provides Soldiers specially trained in extraction, while medical personal from all five New York Air National Guard Wings perform triage. The volunteer New York Guard, the state-only emergency force, augments the National Guard Troops on the team.
For more information contact: Eric Durr, 518-786-4581
NIAGARA FALLS AIR RESERVE STATION, NY (11/02/2009)(readMedia)-- Air National Guard medical personnel and Army National Guard medics based at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station will practice their skills on simulated casualties evacuated from the former Spaulding Fiber Plant site in Tonawanda on Tuesday as part of Exercise Vigilant Guard. Members of the media are invited to attend.
WHO: Aeromedical personal from the New York Air National Guard's 107th, 109th and 105th Airlift Wings, the 174th Fighter Wing and 106th Rescue Wing and Army National Guard medical personnel from the 466th Area Medical Support Company and medevac helicopters flown by the New York Army National Guard.
WHAT: Media is invited to the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station to cover Vigilant Guard activities to include the helicopter evacuation of simulated casualties from the Tonawanda Firemen's Park to the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Base and medical support operations.
WHERE: Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station
WHEN: 11:00 a.m. Tuesday, November 3, 2009. Please arrive at the Lockport Road Gate by 10:45 where you will be escorted onto the base.
Media Contacts: 107th Airlift Wing Public Affairs Office (716)236-2394 / Lt Col Deanna Miller (716)-236-3142.
More than 1,300 National Guard troops and hundreds of local and regional emergency response professionals are participating in the largest joint emergency response exercise ever conducted in Western New York. The training involves search and rescue and recovery operations following a simulated earthquake in the region.
For Vigilant Guard Information contact Lieutenant Colonel Paul Fanning, New York National Guard at (518) 786-4581, Ellen Notarius, Erie County Executive's Office at (716) 858-8500, or Dennis Michalski, State Emergency Management Office (518) 292-2310. For daily updates, go to the Vigilant Guard journal at the New York National Guard website at http://dmna.state.ny.us/blog/journal.php?journal=1254502561
Follow Exercise Vigilant Guard on Facebook and Twitter:
Video will be available at:http://dmna.state.ny.us/video/ and on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/nynationalguard
The New York National Guard also has a Vigilant Guard journal microsite
New York's CERFP (see the fact sheet that can be downloaded on the left for more informtion) went on "the pile" on Monday Nov. 1 as exercise Vigilant Guard kicked off.
Video showing the scene from the air; taken by a specially equipped New York Army National Guard OH-58, can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/nynationalguard and on the New York State Division of Military and Naval video page at: http://dmna.state.ny.us/video/video.php
The New York National Guard's JISSC, which stands for Joint Incident Site Communications Capability, is being deployed to Western New York as part of Exercise Vigilant Guard.
The JISSC is basically a high-tech switchboard which enables emergency responders using different radio systems to talk to each other.
Basically each emergency service provides a radio to the National Guard signal Soldiers maning the JISSC. These radios are plugged into the system and the Guard systems allows the an urban search an rescue team coming in from another state to talk to firemen from Tonawanda and vice versa. The systerm can also be employed to allow a first responder in the field to use their radio to talk to a cell phone or conventional phone.
JISSC can also be used as an emergency command post. The system employs satellite communications to allow video conferencing and phone calls to be made from any location even when power and other communications systems are out.
It also comes with its own computer network, allowing e-mails and graphics information to be sent a received.
As the first day of Vigilant Guard comes to a close on Nov. 1 there are 975 members of the New York Military Forces –Army and Air National Guard and the New York Guard and New York Naval Militia—mobilized and involved. Twenty-three humvees are in use in the exercise, and five buses are ready to move Soldiers and Airmen to training sites.
The New York Army National Guard has its entire aviation fleet involved, two OH-58 scout helicopters, 16 UH-1 Blackhawk troop carrying helicopters and 1 giant CH-47 Chinook heavy lift helicopter are ready to participate at the direction of the Adjutant General.--Eric Durr, DMNA Public Affairs
Exercise Vigilant Guard 09 kicked off on Friday, Oct. 30 as a notional 5.9 Richter Scale earthquake hit Western New York.
Here is what is happening now in the exercise world:
According to reports from Erie and Niagara Counties critical infrastructure, including roads, health services, power grids, and water and waste systems have experienced extensive damage and disruption. Thousands are displaced after their homes suffered structural damage. Many require immediate medical attention and shelter. Local medical capabilities are heavily degraded and key transportation infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed. Millions of tons of debris have been created from collapsed commercial and residential buildings and initial estimates suggest debris removal will require more than 600K truckloads.
Sporadic reports of looting and unlawful behavior have been reported and such incidents are increasing.
Governor David Paterson has called on the New York National Guard to prepare forces to deploy into the region in order to assist civil authorities in Niagara and Erie Counties in dealing with these situations.
The State Joint Operations Center is calling up selected Army and Air National Guard elements, along with members of the all-state New York Guard and New York Naval Militia in order to respond to the governor's call.
Forces will begin flowing into Niagra Falls Air Reserve Station today .
New York Army National Guard Aircraft will be heading into the area to provide aid today.
Two OH-58 Kiowa helicopters from Albany, three UH-60 Blackhawks from Long Island, and four UH-60s from Albany are heading to Rochester this morning to be ready to fly into the emergency area.
We will be posting more as the exercise develops
For more information contact: Lt. Col. Paul Fanning at (518) 786-4518 or (518) 441-4106 (cell)
WHAT: Press Conference announcing the launch of Exercise Vigilant Guard November 1-6 in Greater Buffalo Region, followed by coverage opportunity of search and rescue operations on simulated disaster site
WHERE: Former Spaulding Fibre Plant site, 320 Hinds Street, Tonawanda, NY 14150
WHEN: 1:30 p.m. Monday, November 2, 2009
WHO: Brigadier General Michael Swezey, commander Joint Task Force 6 New York National Guard; Chris Collins, Erie County Executive; Mayor Ron Pilozzi, City of Tonawanda; Director John R. Gibb, State Emergency Management Office and Robert D. Jacobi, PhD, University at Buffalo professor of geology
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: More than 1300 National Guard troops and hundreds of local and regional emergency response professionals will participate in the largest joint emergency response exercise ever conducted in Western New York. The training involves search and rescue and recovery operations following a simulated earthquake in the region. At the conclusion of the press conference news media representatives will be escorted inside the fence to the exercise disaster sites to cover operations by both the military and civilian authorities.
Additional coverage opportunities:
Joint Reception, Staging and Onward Integration of troops at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Base beginning November 1
Search and rescue operations, ground medical evacuation operations at the Spaulding Fibre Plant site November 2-4
Air evacuation of simulated casualties on November 3-4 from the Tonawanda Firemen's Park to the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Base and medical support operations
Army National Guard helicopter medical evacuation to selected area hospitals on November 5
External evaluation of the New York National Guard's 2nd Civil Support Team at the former Niagara Falls Public Safety Building on November 5
Training of the Massachusetts and Pennsylvania Civil Support Teams in Lockport on November 3 and 4 respectively
Critical Infrastructure inspections conducted by New York National Guard personnel and the New York State Military Emergency Boat Service November 2-4
The Erie County Emergency Operations Center in Cheektowaga, and the New York State Emergency Operations Center and the National Guard's Joint Operation Center, both in Albany will run concurrent and coordinated command post exercises. The headquarters of Joint Task Force 6 based at the Connecticut Street Armory will also be in operation.
Interested news organizations can contact the Vigilant Guard Public Affairs Officer Lt. Col. Paul Fanning for updated exercise information and to gain access to the various training venues for additional coverage opportunities. Formal training operations conclude on November 5th with after action reviews and return movements running on November 6th.
For more information, contact Lieutenant Colonel Paul Fanning, New York National Guard at (518) 786-4581, Ellen Notarius, Erie County Executive's Office at (716) 858-8500.
NIAGARA FALLS, NY (10/29/2009) -- On Oct. 30 a simulated 5.9 magnitude earthquake will devastate Niagara and Erie counties. This real life exercise is designed to bring together both military and civilian responders primarily from the states and territories in FEMA Regions I and II. Teams from Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Vermont and others will work alongside New York State military and civilian agencies to coordinate and facilitate all aspects of the weeklong operation.
These exercises will be held around the clock, both on the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, home of the 107th/914th Airlift Wings and off base throughout the surrounding communities. One such exercise is that of a simulated structural collapse of a hospital, a building and a parking garage. In the Town of Tonawanda, construction crews have been systematically placing a combination of rubble, vehicles and mannequins to create a variety of training scenarios. This realistic site with talking mannequins is designed to provide rescuers the ability to perform both search and rescue, and search and recovery exercises. It will also provide the platform for medical personnel to evaluate and evacuate the casualties.
The traveling public may encounter heightened security at the Buffalo International Airport. Members of the 107th Security Forces Squadron along with members from other National Guard units will join together creating the National Guard Reaction Force (NGRF). Throughout the week of Nov. 1 members of the NGRF will join the ranks of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority securing the airport. While on duty members will patrol and be posted throughout the airport. The NGRF will also set up vehicle search points where the traveling public may be instructed to comply with a vehicle search. The general public may also encounter the NGRF providing convoy security, base security and many other security details throughout the community.
"This is a great opportunity for the New York Air National Guard Security Forces to demonstrate our capabilities and skill sets to the general public," said Chief Master Sgt. Paul Wiencek, 107th Security Forces Chief. "I think the lessons learned from this exercise will go a long way in helping us to prepare for possible events similar to this in the future," he added.
On the Air Reserve Base, the 107th Airlift Wing will act as the lead unit, with the Air Force Reserve's 914th Airlift Wing and the New York Army National Guard providing logistical support. The 107th anticipates accommodating up to 3,000 military personnel throughout the exercise. The daily influx of visitors will range from 800 to 1,200 per day that will need to be fed and housed.
Many 107th squadrons will play a vital role in both the on base and off base operations. For example, the 107th Force Support Squadron is preparing and serving two hot meals a day for the military participants staying and working on base. The 107th Civil Engineer Squadron is aiding with the construction of a tent city, which will house 300 military responders each night.
The remaining military members staying on base will stay in base lodging, two hangars or the former fire station. Off base, the engineers will work alongside other military and civilian counterparts inspecting structures both on land and in the water. The boating public may encounter the New York Naval Militia providing water transportation for the inspection team conducting bridge and embankment inspections. The Naval Militia will also patrol the water ways looking out for distressed boaters, safety issues and providing border security.
The 107th Medical Group will be joined by other medics throughout the country to set up an on-base Expeditionary Medical Support (EMEDS) unit. Casualties will be transported from the incident site via ground transportation or one of the many military helicopters responding to this exercise. Upon arrival at EMEDS, prior to sending them onward for further medical treatment, the medics will stabilize the victim and evaluate the extent of their injury. The medics are required to stay on base 24/7, manning the EMEDS facility until the completion of the exercise.
"As you can see this will be a true test of our ability to support an operation of this size and duration," said Col. Timothy Vaughan, 107th Mission Support Group Commander. "This will also test our ability to integrate and operate with other military forces and civilian agencies responding to man-made or natural disasters," he added.
Brigadier General Patrick Murphy, Director of the Joint Staff, Headquarters NY National Guard discusses the progress of the construction of the simulated disaster scene for the upcoming exercise Vigilant Guard with Erie county Commissioner of Emergency Services Gregg Skibitsky at the former Spaulding Fiber Plant site in Tonawanda, NY. The disaster scene will support realistic training for both military and civilian search and rescue and emergency response teams coming from around the state and region for the training, which is set for 1-6 November in the Greater Buffalo area.
Vigilant Guard will begin November 1!
Vigilant Guard is an annual joint civilian and military response exercise which allows civilian and military first-responders to practice life-saving skills.
The scenario this year is a national earthquake and the week-long exercise will be held at the Spaulding Fiber Plant in Tonawanda, NY November 1-6.
It gets a bit hectic, so it will not be open directly to the public but civilian media are invited and encouraged to come.
We will be posting to this journal routinely during the event so check back soon!