On August 13, 2013, three representatives from the Department of State's Office of Emergency Management (OEM) traveled to Camp Atterbury outside of Indianapolis, Indiana to observe Vibrant Response 2013 (VR 13). Vibrant Response -- a major field training exercise conducted by U.S. Northern Command and led by U.S. Army North - is the largest Department of Defense confirmation exercise for its Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) incident responders. In addition to military units, personnel from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), state and local governments, and local first responders participated to simulate a realistic response the scenario; in this case a terrorist detonation of a 10-kiloton nuclear device without warning in a major U.S. city.
Much of the exercise took place at the Muscatatuck Urban Training Complex (MUTC), a 1,000 acre facility that allows for detailed recreations of disaster scenarios. For VR 13, over 5,700 participants were able to interact with 250 live role players and 400 medical mannequins in various urban locations such as unstable buildings, a collapsed parking garage, a damaged hospital, mock subway and train stations, and numerous residential buildings. In addition to military exercises, MUTC also provides the Department of State with training facilities for staff deploying to Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Afghanistan and certain Diplomatic Security training courses.
In addition to continuity of operations for the Department’s domestic facilities, during this scenario the Department of State would act as the focal point for receiving and responding to foreign governments’ offers of assistance and coordinate requests for foreign assistance based on needs conveyed by FEMA or other Federal agencies. The Department would also communicate with foreign governments that can assist and/or support immediate and long-range response, mitigation, and recovery efforts.
Charged with ensuring preparedness and response to any hazard affecting the Department's 232 domestic locations and 25,713 personnel, participation in such exercises allows OEM staff to better understand their role in the U.S. whole-of-government approach to large scale disasters.
About the Author: Leslie Phillips serves as Director of Crisis Response in the Department of State's Bureau of Public Affairs.