<font color="red">Exercise, exercise, exercise:</font> Team Whiteman recovers from base's worst night-MARE

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Warning sirens blared March 10 at 9:30 a.m. here as a Tornado Warning was issued base-wide.

At approximately 9:50 a.m. a tornado touched down near base housing and moved North through the base leaving destruction in its wake.

As quickly as the tornado touched down, it was gone, but not before leaving a duplex housing unit in ruins and causing major damage to the Whiteman Fitness Center, the Columbia Hall dormitory and the Base Water Treatment plant.

Once the "All Clear" notification was given, emergency responders moved into action in coordination with off-base emergency agencies, providing medical care and search-and-rescue operations to injured victims.

The disaster was all part of a Major Accident Response Exercise focusing on natural disaster preparedness and response.

The 509th Bomb Wing plans and scheduling office coordinated with the Army Corps of Engineers to demolish an abandoned base housing unit to provide a unique training platform for on- and off-base emergency responders, said Lt. Col. Joseph Hall, 509th Bomb Wing Plans.

"This building was already slated for demolition and we took advantage of the situation," he said.

Dummies simulating victims were placed inside the demolished home for search-and-rescue teams to recover. Teams from the Whiteman and Sedalia fire departments as well as the Johnson County Ambulance District had to search and provide immediate medical attention prior to transport to the nearest medical facility.

"This was the perfect opportunity to train with our off-base partners," said David Fisher, 509th Civil Engineer Fire Department assistant training chief. "We have agreements with several off-base emergency responding units that allow them access to base in the event we need help and also allow them to request our assistance in an off-base incident."

The last time members of Team Whiteman responded to a major off-base emergency was a building collapse in Clinton, Mo., in June 2006. Fire and rescue specialists assisted more than 200 emergency personnel during the incident.

Similar to the building collapse, emergency responders worked hand-in-hand to provide quick response to the simulated victims, dummies were used in the house while moulaged victims were used for the simulated damaged fitness center and dormitory.

"There were several focus areas during this training exercise," said Lt. Col. Daniel Semsel, 509th Mission Support Group and the Emergency Operations Center director during the exercise. "There were a lot of training opportunities for our emergency responders, but we also had scenarios with water contamination and how we care for victims who lost everything but the clothes on their back.

"With the exception to those focused on real-world flying operations, the entire base played a part in this exercise right down to dependants and other people who happen to be on base at the time," Colonel Semsel said.

In addition to the simulated victims, demolished structures and contaminated water, the exercise focused on other aspects of a real-world situation such as what to do about a new water supply, shelter for those affected by demolished homes and people who may have special medical needs, to name a few.

"We like to make the training as real as possible so there are very few surprises if there is a real-world emergency," Colonel Semsel said.

"The bottom line is that Team Whiteman, in conjunction with our off-base partners, is always training and looking for better ways to work together to ensure we can all respond quickly and effectively in any situation," Colonel Semsel said.