Press Release Index
CONTACT: Lt. Col. Paul Fanning (cell) 518-441-4106
FOR RELEASE: Thursday, Nov 05, 2009
ON SITE: Lt. Col. Paul Fanning (cell) 518-441-4106

Exercise Vigilant Guard Concludes In Western New York

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. 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, or Dennis Michalski, State Emergency Management Office (518) 292-2310.

-- The Vigilant Guard Journal
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-- The Vigilant Guard Video page (includes broadcast-quality downloads)
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© NYS DMNA Press Release:Exercise Vigilant Guard Concludes In Western New York
Page Last Modified: Nov 05, 2009