Monday, October 1, 2012

The Blue Cell Intel Summary Vol. 2 Issue 10

Command School TTX Exercise for the Kansas NE IMT's and Hazmat Team at KDEM

            I had the recent pleasure to work for Todd Manns, owner of The Blue Cell LLC, at a table top exercise held at the Kansas Department Emergency Management in Topeka, Kansas.  I have not known Todd very long, but I know his passion for emergency management.  I first met him at training in Manhattan, Kansas at resource unit leader class.  I sat in this class and was amazed at how little I actually knew. I found Todd’s teaching style was perfect for me; he kept my interest and I learned.  I was worried about how I would pass the test and told then “Mr. Manns” my fears.  He reassured me that it would not be as hard as what I had begun to fear.  He helped me and, surprisingly enough, he was right.  I found Todd’s teaching style was perfect for me. 
            Since then, I have attended eight additional classes with Todd and The Blue Cell’s team of instructors and have learned something new every time. Even while watching the Planning P video, almost every time I have taken something new away.  The class in Topeka on Tuesday was a new opportunity for me as Todd had asked me to assist him with the class.  It was mostly grunt work on my end, but I was able to observe the scenario and the Chelsea County/Tyler Town set up. This observation still increased my knowledge of incident management.

            The Blue Cell set up of Chelsea County/Tyler Town allowed IMT’s, hazmat teams and search and rescue teams an opportunity to work together and to work through the scenario in an as realistic situation as possible without having put people in harm’s way.  The scenario was a tornado struck Tyler Town’s industrial park, airport and town.  The town is a metropolis of 1 million people and encompassing 85,000 square miles.  Now, of course, you cannot set up a diorama that reflects that actual size or you would need several buildings to accomplish that feat.  However, with The Blue Cell’s recent purchase of Command School TTX, a company specializing in Table Top exercises, the exercise was very realistic. 

             The day started out with setting up cars in the model town.  This was like a dream come true for a big kid like myself.  Playing with Matchbox© cars and scale version buildings on giant canvases allowed the teams to see a situation, lay hands on it, and own it.  A cadre of radios was utilized to give realistic communications problems between too many people with radios, dead batteries and people walking over the top of each other.  COML's had to work hard to rectify some of these issues.  I heard one of the team members grumbling about having to waste his time “driving to another part of town” because no one was listening to the radio.  There were several command trailers set up in the parking lot of KDEM and, realistically, the worker had to leave the command center and respond inside the building to find the team leader to get the information he needed, but in a real life situation he would have been driving a long distance to check on the welfare of the team leader and his team.
            Lunch was served in so the groups could have a working lunch.  Even though there may not have been a lot work going on over lunch, there certainly was a large amount of conversation going on.  After lunch, the exercise continued on a little longer.

            At the conclusion of the day, the group was brought back together as a whole.  The discussion was directed towards what was learned.  There were several positives discussed, but the main topic of discussion was the weaknesses.  These were pointed out and a plan was put in place to address them.  This was one of the more important things that happened in this day as we grow and learn from addressing our weaknesses constructively.
             These events are helpful of course for the exercises, but more importantly, is the team building and rapport that goes on.  From my first class, I have met so many different people from different communities and disciplines.  These bonds are built through exercises of turmoil, bonds become strong and long lasting.  When real life disasters do occur, the periods of forming and norming do not take as long and the teams can begin performing as we are familiar with each other.  The communities in north east Kansas are being served well by these dedicated and committed men and women. 

Great job Blue Cell and thanks for the opportunity Todd!!!
Steve Taylor
Exercise Specialist
The Blue Cell, LLC