When is the last time that you participated in an exercise with over 800,000 people? That’s exactly what happened in the Salt Lake valley of Utah the week of April 16th 2012 during the Great Utah Shakeout. The Salt Lake valley sits on the Wasatch fault and is primed for a potential massive earthquake. The statewide disaster exercise simulated a magnitude 7.0 earthquake, the destruction that would follow, and the steps emergency managers would need to take in the initial response stage.
The Blue Cell sent several members to Utah as a part of a Colorado contingency tasked with evaluating and mentoring various IMT3’s and EOC’s. Randy Freed, Training and Exercise Services Group Lead, worked with and evaluated the Planning Section of the Salt Lake City EOC in downtown Salt Lake City. Travis Bailey, Deployment Services Group Lead, evaluated the Unified Fire IMT3 Logistics Section of the ICP located in Herriman City on the southwest side of the Salt Lake valley.
FEMA Region VIII used Utah as a pilot for the IMT3 program and this large-scale exercise was a capstone for the last two years of education that has been grant funded. Since I worked exclusively in the Unified Fire ICP, I will share some thoughts on that portion of the exercise.
Building a fully capable IMT3 is a somewhat daunting task when you are starting from scratch. However, that is exactly what Unified Fire Authority (UFA) and the State of Utah set out to do. They have been aggressively sending team members to trainings throughout the Rocky Mountain Region and conducting their own exercises for the past 24 months. The Blue Cell has participated in and taught some of the classes that were instrumental in this education. From position specific classes in the Planning section to Command and General Staff exercises, we have been able to see this group become a team. This is a testament to the members of the UFA and their partners, showing what is possible when all members of a team share a common goal.
The exercise employed one of the basic tenants of ICS: home unit rank or position does not matter in ICS. We were able to see a large fire department with a rigid hierarchy put rank aside and work as a team. This is not an easy task for many, and a common failure in the new collaborative world of All-Hazard IMT3’s.
As we left the exercise at the After Action Review (AAR), I was impressed to hear them all acknowledge the good work they had put in, and begin the process of identifying deficiencies and needs. These types of full-scale exercises are undertaken to recognize shortcomings that need to be corrected before the actual incident; however, it is just as important to point out the positives. If the goal at the beginning of this project was to create fully functioning All-Hazard IMT3, then they clearly have accomplished their goal.
Travis BaileyDeployment Services Group Lead