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EM program takes proactive measures to save lives

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- During a base emergency, the community is divided into two groups of people; people who are in need of help and people who are prepared to provide help.

Falling in the latter of the two categories are the people associated with the 30th Civil Engineer Squadron's Emergency Management program.

"This program examines potential emergencies and disasters based on the risks posed by likely hazards," said Lauren Silsbee, an installation emergency manager. "It also develops and implements other programs aimed toward reducing the impact of emergency situations on the installation; prepares for risks that cannot be eliminated; and prescribes actions required to deal with consequences of actual events along with the guidance used to recover from those events."

Throughout the year, the base's emergency managers spend countless hours planning for the likelihood of a number of anomalies that could potentially occur on base. One of the biggest challenges emergency managers face is ensuring all squadrons/units have the updated information needed to carry out the proper procedures during an emergency or base exercise.

"During a recent exercise, we noticed that there must be a disconnect between the base's understanding of certain emergency management procedures - mainly the difference between 'shelter-in-place' and 'lockdown' procedures," said Ms. Silsbee.

To clarify, a lockdown is a procedure used during emergency situations and base exercises that isolates base personnel from danger by instituting a building lockdown. In a lockdown situation, personnel are to remain locked behind doors or other designated locations that are away from the danger. Each unit is responsible for accounting for their people and ensuring that no one leaves the safe area. Building entrances should be secured, ensuring that no unauthorized individuals leave or enter the building. Personnel should turn off all lights and remain quiet until notified by security forces personnel to do otherwise.

Shelter-in-place is different from lockdown procedures in that it is meant to protect people from the exposure to hazardous materials. It is the act of going inside a facility and sealing it off to prevent hazardous materials from seeping in.

The following actions should be taken when directed to shelter-in-place during a hazardous materials emergency:

- Lock doors, close windows and air vents

- Turn off fans, air conditioning, and forced air heating systems

- Bring emergency supply kit unless it has been contaminated and go into an interior room, e.g. a break room, conference room, restroom or storage rooms with few windows, if possible

- Seal all windows, doors and air vents with plastic sheeting and duct tape; measure and cut the sheeting in advance to save time

- Be prepared to improvise and use what you have on hand to seal air gaps so that you create a barrier between yourself and any contamination

- Watch TV, listen to the radio, or check the Internet for official news and instructions as they become available

"Quarterly exercises like Foggy Shores, tests the base's units on scenarios that require the use of lockdown and shelter-in-place procedures," said Tech. Sgt. Stephanie Hansen, the 30th CES NCO in charge of readiness and emergency management. "This falls on the unit's shoulders to be prepared. Furthermore, it is important for everyone to know what to do when an emergency arises."

Vandenberg's EM program educates base personnel about the best emergency management practices by providing training to squadron/unit representatives, Emergency Operation Center personnel and facility managers. An emergency management newsletter is also sent out to all representatives to disseminate the information to their squadrons/units.

One way units can prepare for an emergency, or exercise, situations is by taking advantage of the wing readiness training days. The third Thursday of the month is set aside for units to hone in on emergency management techniques and procedures.

For more information about Vandenberg's EM program, call the 30th CES emergency management flight at 606-4022.