McPherson County participates in “Invisible Fire” Foreign Animal Disease (FAD) Functional Exercise this week

By Darren Frazier
October 24, 2014

This exercise was sponsored by the South Central Homeland Security Region in Kansas. This exercise is a cooperative effort between the region and KDA, building on KDA’s mission to develop and implement interstate agro-security planning initiatives and model asset protection for the food supply chain.

This project is being implemented as a result of regional allocations from the South Central Kansas Homeland Security Region. The region received resources from a state grant received from the United States (U.S.) Department of Homeland Security (DHS), State Homeland Security Grant Program.

Participating Organizations:

The following functional areas participated in the exercise:

KDA Animal Health Division, Butler, Harvey, Reno, Sedgwick, Sumner and McPherson County Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs).

Local Response Agencies who participated:

McPherson County Emergency Management and 911 Communications, McPherson County Sheriff, City of McPherson Police and Fire Departments, City of Lindsborg Police Dept., McPherson County GIS and Mapping, McPherson EMS, McPherson County Health Department, Marion County Emergency Manager (Observer)

Objectives and Core Capabilities tested:

1.    Operational Coordination

A.    Define the appropriate county/regional-level incident command structure(s) (ICS) needed for a FAD response.

B.    Identify the resource needs of the responding counties and where those resources will be obtained, including mutual aid.

C.    Utilize the appropriate process for requesting state support for the county response and accurately track personnel and equipment resources.

2.    Operational Communication

A.    Identify communication mechanisms for maintaining situational awareness and response coordination between the counties, the region, and KDA.

B.    Effectively integrate local health department assets into the ICS to address public information and behavioral health issues.

3.    Physical Protective Measures

A.    Identify the capacity of a participating county to detect, prevent or respond to an act of civil disobedience (i.e., releasing animals at a temporary holding area).

At the conclusion of the exercise play, Controllers facilitated a Hot Wash to allow players to discuss strengths and areas for improvement, and to allow Evaluators to seek clarification regarding player actions and decision-making processes.

What we learned and already knew, was that we have strong working relationships with our first responders in McPherson. Each person involved in the exercise were pushed outside of their comfort zone and may have been asked to work in an area that was not really their responsibility in their normal job. With some technology difficulties at the beginning we realized quickly how much we rely on our infrastructure and how quickly it can cause us difficulties.

We also learned that we need to work on our radio capabilities in the Emergency Coordination/Operations Center.

Even though 911 Communications is across the hallway, they would be separated away from the operations as “real life” normal everyday activities would still go on in whatever crisis we may be dealing with in the EOC. We need to work on coordinating some radio infrastructure upgrades in the future to assist with tactical dispatching in the crisis environment.

Overall, this exercise went fairly well, but we have things to build on for any future crisis we may face in McPherson County. With and all-hazards approach and mind set and cooperation with our emergency responders, volunteers and residents, we will be better prepared with each exercise we will do.