Fifty years ago, on March 27, the second most devastating recorded earthquake took place in Alaska. In four and a half minutes of shaking, the landscape changed forever. A Tsunami of 40 feet would follow and the shock waves were felt as far South as San Francisco.
As a college freshman, I remember well looking with dismay at the photos in Life Magazine. The enormity of this catastrophe is difficult to wrap your head around. The relatively small numbers of deaths is largely attributable to the fact that Alaska was so lightly populated. The magnitude of the shaker (9.2) and the fact that this fault line is still very much active attests to the fact that another earthquake is only a matter of when. The Anchorage Museum’s display with film and photos was impressive as were the live testimonials of survivors.
Subsequently, a massive disaster preparedness drill entitled Alaska Shield 14 kicked off this week in Anchorage and other cities, and will continue through till next Friday. I was an invited member of the Harvard Medical School’s Disaster Medicine Fellowship team with a role of observing and providing comments whereby an evaluation of the hard spots and lessons learned might find their way into future protocols.
|Captain Tom Oxnam, Anchorage Fire and Paul Davis at Alaska Shield 14|
The enormity of the drill is difficult to absorb since parallel activities are presently taking place across this vast state. Documenting the drills of the last two days are photos below with some captions. Some of the public safety and military organizations include the California FEMA Urban Search & Rescue (USAR) Teams, the Alaska National Guard, the Alaska Militia, the Air National Guard (Hawaii and Oregon), the Oregon National Guard, the Anchorage Urban Search and Rescue Team, scores of civilian role players (who responded to ads in Craigslist), the AFD’s HazMat team as well as members of FEMA.
The Washington National Guard, originally scheduled to participate in the drill were dispatched to the mudslide. As in life, contingency plans had to be made and the Oregon Guard was dispatched.
I was honored to have Tom Oxnam, senior captain of the AFD as my liaison with the department and gain access to the simulation site. The AFD has what is typically referred to as “The Rubble Pile” of broken pieces and parts of junk, much as one might expect to see in an urban collapse. Their training academy encompasses well over 10 acres of property adjacent to the Municipal Airport.
|Alaska National Guard members participating in Alaska Shield 14|
|All of the equipment needed to create a field hospital is palletized and moved to the Alaska State Fair grounds from the joint Army-Air Force base.|
|The Command and Control Operations Center at the AFD Fire Academy|
|Samaritan's Purse, a NGO provided a working MASH unit|
|In the surgical suite of the MASH unit is Dr. Lance Plyler (R) is Samaritan's Purse's Emergency Medical Response Advisor. Also pictured is one of the Harvard Fellows, Dr.|
|Back at the AFD Training Academy, our "Role Players" and their inanimate associates (aka Rescue Randy®) are staged to triage and transport. The boxes are not coffins, but are the shipping containers for the mannequins.|
|Looking like the cast of the Walking Dead, this assemblage of Role Players responded to ads on Craigslist.|
|The most important part of disaster response starts with communications; without which, nothing will happen. This is one of FEMA's assets, a satellite down-link.|
|The Oregon National Guard had an amazing array of equipment, brought in via C-135, C-17 and C-5 aircraft|
|Members of the Air Guard, in full MOPP (Mission-Oriented Protective Posture- i.e., hazmat protection) suits remove a "victim" from "The Pile"|
|Hard to believe the role that computers play in all emergency and public safety operations. The large bay of the AFD's Academy was ideally suited for the command post.|