Multiple major disasters are poised to pummel Kansas, disasters that will require response not only from local agencies, but also from the state, the Kansas National Guard, other states and federal entities.
But it’s okay, because we know when they’re coming – Aug. 4-7 – and it’s all just for training.
Kansas will be the host state for Vigilant Guard 2014, a large-scale, multi-state disaster response exercise sponsored by U.S. Northern Command and the National Guard Bureau that tests the capabilities of emergency response agencies at all levels of government, both military and civil.
“Sometimes, the scope of a disaster can quickly overwhelm the manpower and resources of local responders,” said Maj. Gen. Lee Tafanelli, the adjutant general and director of the Kansas Division of Emergency Management. “That’s when they can ask the state to assist. Some disasters are so significant, as with the hurricanes that hit the Gulf Coast and the forest fires out west, that states have to reach out to neighboring states for assistance. That’s what Vigilant Guard is all about.”
More than 2,000 local, state, and federal personnel are expected to take part over the course of the six-day exercise. The exercise will take place at several locations in the state, including Fort Riley, Overland Park, Salina, Crisis City and Smoky Hill Weapons Range outside of Salina, Topeka, and Wichita.
Planning for Vigilant Guard 2014 has been ongoing for more than a year. The final planning meeting took place June 11 and 12 in Topeka, where the various organizations that will be involved finalized their goals and objectives for the exercise.
“Vigilant Guard gives us the opportunity to test our emergency response plans and capabilities, and to practice integrating the response efforts of civilian agencies and the National Guard, as well as to incorporate help from other states and also federal entities,” said Tafanelli.
“The scenario we’ll be dealing with in August simulates multiple, large-scale disasters hitting the state all at once,” explained Tafanelli. “Since this is Kansas, we can expect it to involve tornados, with the need for search and rescue, medical care, disruption of utilities, train derailments, community security issues, hazardous material contaminations, and other problems. Additional aspects of the scenario include an industrial fire, flooding and even bioterrorism. With all this happening, we will need to bring in assistance from our neighboring states that have teams specially-trained to deal with some of these events.”
Kansas National Guard organizations participating in Vigilant Guard will include Joint Forces Headquarters Kansas; 35th Infantry Division; 287th Sustainment Brigade; 635th Regional Support Group; 235th Training Regiment; 1st Battalion, 108th Aviation Regiment; 73rd Civil Support Team; 35th Military Police Company; 105th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, 1989th Contingency Contracting; and the 1077th Ground Ambulance Company. The 190th Air Refueling Wing and 184th Intelligence Wing of the Kansas Air National Guard will also be participating in the exercise.
Joining the Kansas National Guard and civilian responders will be the Missouri National Guard — Homeland Response Force, 70th Troop Command; and the 7th Civil Support Team; Nebraska National Guard — Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and high- yield Explosives Enhanced Response Force Package; and 1st Battalion, 376th Aviation; Iowa National Guard – 71st Civil Support Team; and Oklahoma National Guard – 63rd Civil Support Team. The U.S. Army Reserve’s 1013th Quartermaster Company, North Platte, Nebraska, will also take part.
State participants include the Kansas Division of Emergency Management, Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Kansas State Fire Marshal, Kansas Search and Rescue Task Force, North Central Kansas Hospital Region, North Central Kansas Public Health, and Mobile Emergency Response Group and Equipment Wichita.
Local and county participants will include Saline County Emergency Management, Saline County Fire Department, Overland Park Fire Department, Geary County Emergency Management, Riley County Emergency Management, Sedgwick County Emergency Management, Sedgwick County Health Department and Cities Readiness Initiative Wichita.
Federal agencies taking part will include the Federal Emergency Management Agency Region VII, U.S. Northern Command, Disaster Assistance Response Team – West, National Guard Bureau Joint Enabling Team, FBI Weapons of Mass Destruction Tactical Analyst, and Fort Riley Emergency Management.
“We sincerely hope that nothing of this magnitude ever occurs that would require such a response in the state,” said Tafanelli. “However, this exercise will make us more prepared to protect the health and safety of the people we serve, if it ever does.”