USACE Honolulu District Supports Quake Catastrophe Response Exercise
By Angela E. Kershner
HONOLULU, Hawaii — Several U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Honolulu District employees spent June 18-22, 2012 training for emergency management deployments by participating in the Combined Response Mission Exercise Evergreen Quake 2012 in Tacoma, Wash.
The exercise simulated an emergency response to a significant earthquake in the Seattle area. The Combined Response Mission Exercise involved Local Emergency Managers, the state of Washington, FEMA Region 10, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. USACE participants included the 249th Engineer Battalion, Emergency Power Planning and Response Teams (PRT) from both Honolulu and Walla Walla Districts and several subject matter experts and evaluators.
Power PRTs work with the 249th Engineering Battalion, contractors, and local and state entities to assess, install and maintain emergency generators at critical facilities throughout the affected area. These teams include specialists for contracting, liaisons, mission management, data management, logistics and quality assurance.
Don Schlack, Honolulu District chemist, has deployed numerous times as a member of a PRT. He participated in Exercise Evergreen as an evaluator of the Walla Walla District PRT.
"The PRT is a group of volunteers who have completely different jobs during most of the year," said Schlack. "When called up for an emergency, they need to be able to use this training to solve issues which tend to come fast and hard."
Evaluators provide the PRTs with the scenarios and "injected" issues, problems and changes for them to handle. Such "injects" ranged from detainment of contractors by law enforcement officials to a bridge collapse or a persistent reporter; all drawn from actual experiences.
"It was really great being put in our role, in a real life situation," said Mike Wong, Honolulu District Chief of Civil Works -- Technical Branch and the Mission Manager for one of the Honolulu District PRTs. "In an exercise, you aren't going to experience all of the possibilities, nor do you want to -- you have to be flexible in any situation in order to get the mission done."
"The main purpose of the Exercise Evergreen is to replicate the chaos, confusion and system failures so PRT members are able to develop the extra skills necessary to cope with the situation they will be faced with in the field," said Schlack.
Helene Takemoto, Honolulu District Environmental Protection Specialist, was the Action Officer for the exercise. Due to the amount of preparation done before the team departed Hawaii, the Honolulu District PRT was well prepared for every contingency presented to them.
While some teams didn't have wireless internet capabilities, others hadn't brought printers, but the Honolulu District had everything they needed.
"This team has done such an excellent job in supporting me as the Action Officer," said Takemoto. "I think it's a great team."