Tornado season touched down early on Redstone Arsenal Aug. 25 as the installation underwent a full-scale exercise.
The event consisted of a simulated tornado that impacted the northeast part of the installation at 9:05 a.m., causing damage to the RV park, Fox Army Health Center and several other locations and resulting in eight “deaths” and 14 “injuries.”
“This was a great exercise that took months of planning to achieve our objectives,” Garrison Commander Col. Glenn Mellor said. “Ultimately, the goal of training and exercises is to ensure that when we have a real-world event, we are prepared to accomplish our mission and to do this effectively at the lowest cost in terms of resources and with the lowest loss of life and injury among those affected. Safety and securing of our workforce and Team Redstone’s families will remain our top priority and this exercise has helped us understand some gaps in our process and procedures and to get better.”
Throughout the day, Redstone Arsenal personnel were updated through press releases and communications prefaced by the phrase, “Exercise, exercise, exercise.” A temporary Emergency Family Assistance Center was established, and public affairs personnel answered questions and disseminated information through online portals and phone calls throughout the day.
These types of activities were paramount to the success of the event, which is designed to test all facets of the installation’s emergency response in order to ensure success in the event of a real emergency.
“While we have several things we need to get better at, we proved that we can respond, and do so in a way that we are effective in our actions,” Mellor said. “While communications and responses on scene will continue to be a focus of future training for the Garrison, I appreciate the hard work in the planning and executing of this exercise and our accomplishments are indicative of the Team Redstone approach.”
The day concluded with a simulated press conference at the Gate 1 Visitor Center, where Mellor answered questions about the simulated tornado and gave updates on the installation’s response.
Redstone Arsenal personnel were not the only ones involved in the exercise. Since community partners would be involved in a real-life emergency scenario, many were also invited to participate in the exercise.
“We need to ensure that the safety and protection of our workforce and their families are paramount in any action that we do,” Mellor said. “I appreciate the support of all the tenants that worked with us and also the mutual support we received from Huntsville and Madison Fire Departments; this was clearly a high point for this exercise. Madison Emergency Management Agency (EMA) was also instrumental in helping plan this event.
“We really could not have done this without the help of the community partners and volunteers that made this a more realistic exercise. I have said it many times, I really enjoy the benefits of knowing that our community is unlike any I have experienced in my time in the military; knowing that they will help in any situation is an enormous relief to me as the Garrison commander.”
Full-scale exercises occur every 18-24 months per the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program. Throughout the day, evaluators from Installation Management Command took note of Arsenal leadership’s actions and response to the events.
Each full-scale exercise is designed with the installation’s most likely threats in mind. Historically, the Redstone Arsenal community is no stranger to tornadoes. Practicing the emergency response to such an event in a controlled, planned environment helps strengthen the installation’s response if the unthinkable actually does one day occur.
“We learned a lot about our SOPs and we are better today than yesterday,” Mellor said. “The hard work of the external evaluators, Garrison staff and tenant organizations to ensure everyone knows the actions that need to take place will save lives if an event like this ever takes place.”