Goodfellow demonstrates readiness
By Tech. Sgt. Dorian Chapman , Public Affairs
/ Published March 27, 2007
GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
At 12:40 p.m. severe weather conditions escalated and a tornado warning was issued for much of the Concho Valley. Less than five minutes later the storm touched down on Goodfellow Air Force Base. The long steady tone emitting from the base emergency message system could be heard across the installation. Immediately those outside ran for shelter.
The sky was filled with dirt, tree limbs and debris. Most of the debris came from the base clinic as the funnel cloud ripped its way through the building. A red Chevrolet in the parking lot was flipped on its side. Then, just as quickly as it had started, the cataclysm was over leaving a trail of carnage and grizzly destruction in its wake. Luckily for the men and women of Goodfellow, it was all make-believe.
Goodfellow had its first natural disaster exercise of the year March 13. The 17th Training Wing Exercise Evaluation Team threw a difficult, yet all-too-realistic scenario at the base in order to test people's ability to respond.
"In West Texas, it is so important for people to know what to do if a tornado strikes," said Tammy Egger, EET team chief.
"This was more than a 'tornado drill,'" said Master Sgt. Dennis McGorty, deputy chief of EET. "This was an opportunity for the personnel on Goodfellow to demonstrate what to do and how to do it in the event of a tornado. Taking cover is only the beginning." And take cover the base populace did when the "Giant Voice" indicated a tornado was on the ground and gave directions to take shelter.
"During this type of exercise, everyone needs to participate because, if it were the real thing, everyone would be affected," said Ms. Egger. Two major disruptions were incorporated in this exercise: telephone outage and the destruction/evacuation of the base clinic.
"It is very likely that telephone capability will be lost due to the high winds of a tornado," explained Ms. Egger. "People have to be confident in their ability to use secondary communication methods." During the exercise, the use of
radios, runners and loudspeakers played a major role in maintaining communication. Perhaps even more difficult to overcome was the loss of the base's primary medical facility.
"A tornado is very likely to cause injuries and in the event that the clinic becomes inaccessible, a secondary location must be established," said Ms. Egger. At Goodfellow, the secondary location is the Carswell Field House.
"In this situation, we had 21 injured personnel," said Master Sgt. McGorty. "They had to be assessed, triaged and transported to the Carswell Field House. Medical teams took supplies and equipment there to set up a medical treatment center to treat the injured."
So what about that overturned red Chevrolet? EET took the gloves off to test the base's first responders. The team placed a mannequin in the driver's seat and turned the vehicle on its side. The "driver" had obvious chest wounds caused from the flying debris. The car's shattered windows created a real-world hazardous scene in which responders were forced to operate. After an initial evaluation of the scene, rescuers expertly secured the area and cut the top from the vehicle to extract the victim. A medical team was right on their heels to take life-saving measures.
Meanwhile, smoke poured from the base dental clinic. Additional rescue workers responded to fight the imaginary blaze and search the building for trapped victims. In the end, the base-wide exercise lasted approximately four hours, giving EET members the opportunity to assess numerous processes around Goodfellow.
"The base did well," Ms. Egger reported. "This exercise was all about training. As a training base, we are constantly receiving new personnel. Those who experienced our last weather exercise are long gone. We have a responsibility across the base to make sure our newest people get the training they will need in the event of a natural disaster."
The Goodfellow Exercise Evaluation Team takes that responsibility seriously and recognizes that only through rigorous training and honest assessment can the men and women of Goodfellow Air Force Base be ready when the next natural disaster hits.
"It has been 12 years since Goodfellow got hit with a tornado," reminded Ms. Egger. "This could be the year for the next one. We're due."