JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- The City of Jacksonville's Emergency Operations Center, Naval Air Station Jacksonville (NAS Jax), CSX Transportation, Amtrak and other agencies participated in Operation Railcar, a multi-agency emergency response exercise, March 3.
The exercise scenario simulated a chemical tanker truck being struck by an Amtrak passenger train at a railroad crossing. The resulting derailment caused a chemical leak and mass injuries.
"This full-scale operation is an excellent opportunity for local, state and federal responders to interact and implement our emergency response plans," said Marty Senterfitt, Duval County emergency management chief. "In today's exercise, communication is the key because each agency comes in with its own command structure. What I like to see is how well the different uniforms mix together and engage in face-to-face communications. When all the incident commanders meet on site, you end up with a unified command structure, and that increases the opportunity for things to go right."
NAS Jax Commanding Officer Capt. Jeffrey Maclay observed the exercise.
"This is a great opportunity for different agencies to unify their tactics, techniques and procedures in order to work together for the most effective outcome," said Maclay. "Even though the incident takes place on private property near NAS Jax, we have a firefighting assistance agreement with the City of Jacksonville to dispatch the NAS Jax fire and emergency services assets whenever they are the closest responders to an incident in proximity to the base. From what I observed, our local, state and federal responders are well ahead of the curve when it comes to providing a unified emergency response."
The exercise took place at a lumber store across from NAS Jacksonville's southernmost boundary. The exercise was designed not to impact normal business operations and the store remained open during the exercise.
NAS Jax Fire Chief Don Martin kept a close look at how his incident command team communicated with other responders as they arrived on the scene.
"Because of our close proximity to the accident site, Jacksonville 9-1-1 routed the call to our regional dispatch center, which in turn dispatched our hazardous materials team and other assets," said Martin. "Operation Railcar enables NAS Jax fire and emergency services personnel to train with outside agencies. Since we were the first set of eyes on the scene, our job was to assess the situation and identify the chemical leaking from the tank truck and pass that information along to our brothers and sisters in the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue department."
"Operation Railcar is a great opportunity to build our communications bridges with other agencies beyond our fence line," Martin said. "Interoperability is always the key to establishing effective communications and operating as one."
Also taking part in the exercise were Soldiers and Airmen of Georgia National Guard Joint Task Force (JTF) 781, one of the state's Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive (CBRNE) Enhanced Response Force Package (CERFP) units.
"Our units are able to respond to incidents outside Georgia under the terms of an emergency mutual aid compact with Florida CERFP," said Maj. Michael Collins, JTF-81 commanding officer. "Upon arriving on site, our command and control team coordinates with the on-scene commander to determine how to most effectively employ our unit. Today's drill allows us to reinforce our ongoing training to strengthen ties with other organizations, both military and civilian."
CERFP personnel help remove victims from a contaminated environment, perform mass casualty decontamination, and provide treatment as necessary to stabilize patients for evacuation.
The Naval Hospital Jacksonville (NH Jax) Decontamination Response Team received six mock victims from the train derailment. Injuries ranged from respiratory complications and mental impairment, to lacerations and other injuries typical of this type of disaster. Based on the condition of each patient, they were transported to appropriate diagnostic, medical and surgical care units.
"Naval Hospital Jacksonville successfully collaborated with federal, state and local agencies on our local response and support in a mass casualty situation," said NH Jax Commanding Officer Capt. Lynn Welling. "It's all about being prepared, knowing your role and how to collaborate seamlessly in disaster situations. Ultimately, it's about saving lives."
"As the Navy's command authority and primary stakeholder for shore installation training requirements, CNIC developed the Shore Response Training Plan, requiring defense support of civil authority training at the operational and tactical levels," said Randy Morgan, Commander Navy Installations Command (CNIC) director of training and readiness.
Morgan said Duval County's Operation Railcar exercise helps NAS Jax to meet the annual requirement (DoD Instruction 6055.17) to exercise and validate their installation emergency management program.
"Participation in Operation Railcar by leaders representing each of the emergency response functions on the installation and appropriate state, local, private-sector organization partners, improves interagency coordination and communication, highlights capability gaps and identifies areas for improvement," said Morgan. "The end-state will be increased readiness that enables seamless response and recovery to real-world events."
For more news from Naval Air Station Jacksonville, visit www.navy.mil/local/nasjax/.