Take a look at the Alaska Shield Video by Mat-Su Borough Public Affairs.
Adrenaline begins flowing, tripping speech, even in a mock press conference for those in front of a camera. The heart of a responder gets pumping in full turnout gear even if the kid on the backboard with the oozing head wound is acting. The rotor winds of a Blackhawk still ripple the clothes and part the hair of a boarding patient, even though it’s only a drill.
Matanuska-Susitna Borough Emergency Manager Casey Cook knows this. Every two years, the Alaska Shield exercise allows Cook to test the nerves and skill of the Mat-Su and himself in a no-fault zone.
Hundreds were put through paces in the Mat-Su on April 1-2. Some 3,000 people participated here, Cook said. Imagine the orchestration. Four school evacuations. Cyber attacks on local government. Terrorist threats to a non-profit. A shelter stood up by Red Cross. Ham radio operators engaged Borough wide. The dismantling of a fake bomb by the 716th EOD team, US Army (Explosive Ordnance Disposal Detachment). A press conference with 10 decision makers. An IPAWS post dispatched. Only four people in the Borough are authorized in real life to send out this Integrated Public Alert & Warning System text to all our local cell phones.
On Saturday, the volume increased at the Alaska State Fairgrounds. Fake fumes from a fogmaker dissipated atop an Alaska Railroad tanker. Liquid drained beneath it. In comes the suited up 103rd Civil Support Team with the Alaska Army National Guard to stop the psudeo hazardous leak. The local Mat-Su Borough Hazmat Team offloaded, unrolled, and set up its own decontamination tents within twenty minutes. VIPs arrive from the real Mongolian Army as part of a State partnership.
Soon a school bus collides with a train. Mat-Su responders and firefighters, Butte Fire among them, carry out and assess acting victims. Dummies dressed in fatigues are strewn along the railroad embankment along the Glenn Highway. Among the phoney train wreck victims are the Boyscouts from Troop 130, who scold one another for smiling in photos with their group head lacerations. Wounds can be gruesome thanks to the volunteer moulage team who applied makeup on actors. LifeMed and a Blackhawk, chopper patients to the landing zone at nearby Mat-Su Regional Medical Center. A few Alaska Railroad employees are drafted to be put through the hazmat showers. The hospital is so innundated with imaginary patients it’s forced to set up an alternate care site at Colony High School. Body bags are hauled out. Palmer Police are helping the Red Cross reunite acting families and notify loved ones of fake deaths at Palmer High.
Although Cook has led the planning of the drill for months, his expression bears the gravity of what could go wrong with all these moving parts and people and flying helicopters. He was more relaxed driving alongside a wall of flames in last summer’s Sockeye Fire. The prep time pays off, however. Alaska Shield 2016 in the Mat-Su ends safely, despite the high stress from the continuous invented disastrous events over two days. Success comes from all those jursidictions intersecting, collaborating and going through their own paces together under Emergency Manager Cook’s command.
—Patty Sullivan/Mat-Su Borough PIO
Video produced by Stefan Hinman, Music created by Hinman, video & photos shot by Patty Sullivan & Hinman—End—