The Camp Minden Emergency Response Group, comprised of numerous local and state response agencies representing fire, hazmat, law enforcement, rescue, medical and emergency management disciplines of Webster and Bossier parishes, has planned an exercise for response to a mock on-site explosive emergency situation to be held Friday, May 6.
While this exercise follows a recent emergency event in March during which an explosives manufacturer experienced a fire on the Camp Minden site, officials say the planning of this exercise had already been under way.
“As part of our emergency planning and preparation, we conduct such exercises annually using different scenarios,” said Col. Carl Thompson, Camp Minden’s public affairs officer. “We found that the practice and plans put in place during last year’s exercise were invaluable during that recent real-life event.”
While last year’s exercise scenario involved an explosive situation within the manufacturing facility of an explosives company, this year’s scenario involves an explosion within a magazine, an earth-covered explosives storage area.
“While most of the responders remain the same for either scenario, the way in which we all respond is different,” said Webster Parish Emergency Preparedness Director John Stanley. “By gathering together during the months that it takes to jointly plan the details of such an exercise, we all learn so much about how to tweak and improve the response Plan each time.”
Led by Camp Minden’s Col. James Knotts, the CMERG (pronounced “C-merge” is the title given to the Camp Minden consortium of emergency response agencies and organizations) will continue to plan annual exercises to ensure that response to any emergency event within or affecting the site is as effective and proficient as possible.
Webster Parish Sheriff Gary Sexton said his deputies, hazmat technicians, and communications and special operations officers are learning priceless response protocols through such exercises.
“It’s one thing to have a plan,” he said. “It’s another thing to practice it; and these exercises allow us to do that. As we practice, we identify our strengths and know what we need to work more on. And practice yields improvement each time.”
Friday’s exercise, which begins at 8 a.m. is open to the media, who will also get the opportunity to exercise their response to such an event.
Additionally, arrangements will be made to allow controlled access by the media to the designated staging and command areas to capture responders in action, depicting their real-world response methods.
Participating agencies include Camp Minden Military Police, administration, specialists and tenant representatives, Bossier Parish Fire District 1, Webster Parish Sheriff’s Office, Hazmat, and Communications, Webster Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness, Louisiana State Police, Minden Medical Center, Webster Parish E-911 Communications District, Caddo-Bossier Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, Webster Parish School Board, and others.
“We want the public to know how hard we are working to anticipate potential emergency events and be prepared for them,” said Thompson. “But we certainly do not want them to be alarmed as we practice our response methods.”