LANCASTER, Tenn. (April 15, 2019) – First responders participated in an exercise at Center Hill Dam last week to coordinate actions that would be necessary if they had to respond to a scenario where the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District could not operate the spillways during a high water event.
The tabletop exercise April 8 provided the opportunity for the first responders to address security and dam safety issues and to consider public safety concerns in a classroom environment. The setting made it possible to understand each agency’s capabilities and authorities, and to know the command and control structure ahead of an emergency.
Kyle Hayworth, Nashville District’s Dam Safety Program manager, said this exercise drill really got down to the crux of any response effort, and that is communication.
“When we get into an emergency requiring a time critical response, communication and understanding everybody’s plan and how they are going to react is going to be critical, potentially saving lives,” Hayworth stressed.
Representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Tennessee Valley Authority, Tennessee National Guard, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Tennessee State Parks, DeKalb County Sherriff’s Department, and Metro Nashville Office of Emergency Management participated.
The first responders worked through the scenario, allowing them to become familiar with each other’s capabilities and the likely timeline that each agency would respond.
“There were some really good talking points and interaction between the agencies,” Hayworth said. “There was a lot of good communication back and forth on how the scenario would play out.”
The Corps of Engineers is responsible for securing the nation’s infrastructure, which includes 10 multipurpose projects within the Cumberland River Basin. The USACE Nashville District operates and maintains Center Hill Dam on the Caney Fork River, which provides flood risk reduction, hydropower, water supply and recreation benefits.
Kevin Salvilla, Center Hill Lake resource manager, provided an overview of the dam and recreation facilities at the lake, and Jay Klinger, Nashville District Security Office chief, addressed the importance of being familiar with each other’s capabilities and working with each other during a response.
Jerry Breznican, Nashville District Emergency Management chief, also highlighted how the district manages and operates Emergency Command and Control Vehicles that can be utilized during an emergency response.
Being able to have input and gain from the perspective from law enforcement agencies also added to the realism of the tabletop exercise. The ability to have the different representatives meet in a room to discuss the scenario and then to tour the facilities is also an important aspect of First Responder’s Day.
Lt. Col. Sonny Avichal, Nashville District commander, said the event provided the Corps of Engineers team a great opportunity to share information about the operation of the dam, develop informal relationships, and discuss capabilities and how to respond to the scenario.
Avichal thanked everyone for participating in “First Responders Day,” an event that brings together federal, state and local partners to identify strengths and weaknesses and identify communication gaps during an incident.
“The right people were involved in the exercise, which led to open communication between all levels of those agencies that participated,” Avichal said.
Following the tabletop exercise, first responders toured the Center Hill Dam Hydropower plant, the recently completed roller compacted concrete berm at the saddle dam, and emergency command and control vehicles. Seeing inside the dam and the surrounding landscape helps familiarize first responders with accessing and maneuvering within Corps of Engineers facilities.
Previous First Responder’s Days were held at the Nashville District Headquarters and J. Percy Priest Dam in Nashville, Tennessee, and Old Hickory Dam in Hendersonville, Tennessee.
(For more information about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District, visit the district’s website at http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps, and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps. The public can also follow Center Hill Lake on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/centerhilllake.)