Readiness Exercises on LA AFB Help Prepare for Real Emergencies

  • Published
  • By Kimberly J. Locke
  • Space Base Delta 3

Space Base Delta (SBD) 3, which supports Space Systems Command (SSC), led several full-scale readiness exercises including an active shooter situation and a bomb explosion on Los Angeles Air Force Base Aug. 1 through 4.  

These exercises, among others, had the support of base personnel volunteers from the following organizations: Emergency Management; Security Forces Squadron; Medical Squadron; Anti Terrorism; Planning; the Office of Special Investigation; the Emergency Family Assistance Center; Civil Engineer Logistics Squadron; and the Chaplain’s Office. 

In addition, off-base emergency response representatives from El Segundo SWAT, El Segundo Fire Department, Torrance Fire/HAZMAT Department, the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office, and The Aerospace Corporation, which is adjacent to the base, joined in various exercises with base personnel. 

“It’s critical for any organization to hold emergency readiness exercises for a couple of reasons,” said U.S. Space Force Col. Mia Walsh, SBD 3 commander. “One, they are an effective way to find out what needs to be done to improve reactions and response times. Another good reason is these exercises, in some cases, enable responders from both on base and the community to share their expertise and acquire a broader understanding of how to handle an emergency.” 

The week-long series of exercises began with a suspicious person outside the base entrance who was taking pictures and asking questions of those in the area. Report of a drone sighting was also included in the exercise. 

The situation response included increasing appropriate personnel to delay any action on the part of the individual, deny access if attempted, or defend against any action if any was taken by the suspicious person. All non-DOD visitor privately owned vehicles and hand-carried items were to be inspected and random inspections of DOD personnel continued. 

Another exercise involved an active shooter situation and lockdown exercise on base that escalated into casualties that continued throughout the triage of victims. Outside responders included those from area police and fire departments as well as the county. 

Michi Riley, Community Engagement chief, Public Affairs, was among those who supported the Emergency Family Assistance Center (EFAC) following the active shooter exercise. 

“Hearing from family members who were understandably upset or angry about the unknown condition of their loved one is a big challenge and was part of my role,” said Riley. “During the first few hours of an emergency, information is often fluid and the conditions of loved ones may not be readily available so it’s a challenge helping family members’ when there is so much uncertainty,” she added. 

The benefit of having emergency preparedness exercises, Riley said, is “they prepare us for the real deal. You’re going to make some mistakes but exercises allow us the opportunity to learn from these missteps and make the necessary adjustments so when a real-world emergency happens, we are better prepared.” 

U.S. Air Force (USAF) Tech. Sgt. Soni Rawtani with the Military and Family Readiness Center (MFRC), SBD 3, is the readiness non-commissioned officer at the center. “Our role is to help meet the needs of military and family members whose lives have been adversely impacted by the natural disaster or emergency event,” said Rawtani. 

“The purpose of the EFAC is to provide a consolidated staging area where families can obtain disaster relief, current information, and contingency services to help them,” she explained. 

“The biggest challenge is people not knowing we exist and all the services we offer through the EFAC. The MFRC partners with other support elements and agencies such as public affairs, finance, legal, mental health, Air Force Aid Society, and the American Red Cross to create a one-stop-shop that provides assistance and eases the burden on disaster victims. In other words, we become a mini-Federal Emergency Management Agency operation center for our base personnel,” added Rawtani. 

The base also held an emergency exercise involving a car bomb threat that ultimately “explodes,” consuming half the Base Exchange building, creating a fire, and exposing those inside the building to radiation. Responders acted as a decontamination team that quickly set up decontamination tents to triage those effected. 

Lessons learned are being compiled as an aid for future emergency preparedness exercises. 

“It’s the way we look to continuously improve our emergency response efforts for the eventuality of a real emergency,” said Walsh. “Exercising with our community partners, like El Segundo Police and Fire Departments, is so important to the success of our response to any emergency,” she added. 

USAF Maj. Simone Zacharias, Inspector General, SSC, served as lead for the four days of exercises.