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137th SOW, OKC first responders conduct tornado response exercise

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Brigette Waltermire
  • 137th Special Operations Wing

The 137th Special Operations Wing conducted a major accident response exercise at Will Rogers Air National Guard Base, Oklahoma City, Feb. 8. 

Tornado sirens wailed early that afternoon, nearly drowning out mock National Weather Service Alerts to take shelter, taking the unexpecting Airmen of the base by surprise – just as a real tornado would. Finally, the “all clear” sounded. But just as in a real tornado, the emergency was only beginning. 

Five base skill sets and Oklahoma City first responders from Oklahoma City Fire Department and Oklahoma Emergency Medical Services Authority immediately began response and recovery efforts. Buildings were simulated to be damaged – one with a gas leak – while six Airmen acted as injured personnel alongside four patient simulators.

One simulator was trapped inside of overturned cars, which were brought out for 137th Fire Emergency Service firefighters to practice extrication using their new battery-powered rescue spreaders.

“Working with civilian agencies is vital to our ability to mitigate any large-scale incident because a single department’s resources are often quickly exhausted,” said Chief Master Sgt. Scott Lair, chief of 137th Fire Emergency Services. “We evaluate our emergency response plans and our ability to execute them so continual joint planning, training and exercising helps us strengthen and improve our mutual tactics and strategies for a major response. Having a mutual aid agreement that lines out what each agency can and will provide is key to the effective execution in mitigating a multi-agency emergency.”

The Airmen on base were tested in their ability to run through their emergency response procedures to assist in quick recovery to continue mission operations alongside civilian partners. Members of the 137th Fire Emergency Services, 137th Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron, 137th Medical Group, 137th Special Operations Security Forces Squadron, and 137th Command Post immediately began recall and emergency response operations. Once accountability had been taken of personnel, the emergency operations center was set up for units to begin recovering the base.

“When a disaster happens, we set up an emergency operations center to help support the incident commander and responders at the incident site in addition to recovery operations,” Lair said. “We put personnel who are subject matter experts in their emergency support function to align with the National Response Framework, which is a standardized guide for response management that outlines how local, state and federal agencies conduct all-hazards response, and ensure all agencies are speaking the same language.”