Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Training Complete!

So last week we had our final week of training.  This included a day at Region IV in Atlanta and our final exam at an undisclosed location.  Tuesday morning we got our notice and went to Reisterstown, MD.  That night and the next two days were spent at the Maryland State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) playing in our IM I/Level I exam.  As we guessed, it was an improvised nuclear device (IND) in Washington DC.  As we were in Maryland, we played a supporting role in helping DC as well as accepting survivors.  Having all passed our exam, we graduated on Friday at headquarters in the NRCC.

As of Saturday morning at 8:30, we are on call.  As we are still moving, for the next couple weeks they extended our window to be on scene at an event from 12 hours all the way to 18 hours.  Saturday I was able to secure an apartment in Ashburn and arranged for a new bed.  Now I am home packing up the required items for the next few months in DC.  I plan to drive out early next week and then get started at the office on August 5.  It feels great to be out of training and to get into the real job!

Sunday, July 14, 2013


None of our training prepared us for a sharknado.  California is on it's own!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Death and Destruction (or Leavin' 'Bama)

So this week was interesting, in a morbid sort of way.  Our leaders, what are known as the Command and General Staff, had the classroom portion of the IM I class this past week.  Those of us that work for the C&GS had a week of ever more increasing in complexity case studies and thought experiments.

We started with something simple: Hurricane Sandy.  From a death perspective, Hurricane Sandy was only 285 people.  The bigger issues were things like communications, the density of the population, and finding temporary housing for people.  From there we moved on to a theoretical earthquake on the Hayward Fault in the San Francisco area.  Now we move up to an estimated 4,000 dead and 150,000+ with injuries.

Issues here revolved around Urban Search & Rescue (USAR), logistics, transportation (because by the way, this takes out all bridges), and mass care.

After these seemingly simple tasks, we move on to the big boys: nuclear.  What would happen if an improvised nuclear device (IND) went off in downtown Chicago?  Well we start off with 450,000 deaths and work our way up from there.  3,000 square miles contaminated.  Major telecommunications systems wiped out by the Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP).  (FYI - if this does happen - removing your cell phone battery and putting it back in may be enough to reset it after an EMP - it might just lock it up, not destroy it beyond use!)

Topics of conversation included dealing with the mass casualties, bodies, decontamination and protection of people, and all the contaminated debris, between 30 to 10 feet deep.  And for those of you wondering, the best thing you can do is get inside and as low down as possible.  Wait for specific instructions.  In many cases, waiting just 24 hours is enough that even if you were in a highly contaminated zone, you could get out safely by waiting just that little amount of time.  Bottom line: don't try to outrun it or escape - get inside, get low, and decontaminate yourself by taking off the outer layer of clothes, brushing off all surfaces and showering.  That is all that is needed!  Don't panic - stay indoors - quick DIY decon - follow evac instructions.

(I wish this was clearer - but essentially at 1 hour after the dose is over 1000 R/hr - almost certain death - to as low as 43 R/hr after 14 hours and 10 R/hr after 48 hours!)

And if you thought that nuclear was the worst, on Friday we had the big one.  Yes, bigger than a nuclear device.  We started off small of course: the New Madrid Fault.  12 million people at high risk, 44 million people in the eight state area.  Second up to bat: Anthrax attack in Los Angeles.  90% of those not treated within seven days of exposure are dead.  And to cap off the uplifting week: Pandemic Influenza.  2 million dead.  10 million sick.  40% absenteeism in all industries.  Vaccines take 24 weeks + to develop.  This was one of those "hard situations."  We hope we never have to deal with this in real life 

I'm glad I am learning all this good info in class, but at the same time too much knowledge sort of freaks one out.  To think that we will be on the front line as the Federal leadership in any of these events is amazing.  It makes me truly reflect on just what a job I have here with this.

So, on a more happy note, we are done in Alabama!  We leave for Atlanta tomorrow morning, spend Monday in Atlanta and then on Tuesday we have our final exam.  The location of the final exam is unknown at this time.  Part of the exam is actually getting to an event in 12 hours after notification.  So sometime Monday night into Tuesday, we will get a notification that our final exam is started and told where in the country to report to.  The final exam will go until Friday when we have our final graduation in the afternoon (assuming we all pass the final) and then moving to DC!  Rochester friends - I'll be home soon for a few days before heading out.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Happy 4th!

Ahhh, a short week.  On Monday and Tuesday we had our IM II Certification exercise.  For this one, we had to play with the State of Alabama for Hurricane Ivan from 2004.  They actually had 10 people from the State here so it was more realistic than some in the past.  And now we get a few days of rest and relaxation. Coming up next week is our last week of classes!  Then next weekend we get moved to Atlanta for a day and then off to an "undisclosed location" for our final IM I exercise.  Almost done!