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AEDC Emergency Management at Arnold AFB critical in keeping base, workforce safe

In fall of 2019, AEDC team members from various offices take part in a tabletop exercise in the Emergency Operations Center at Arnold Air Force Base. Frequent exercises, organized and overseen by the AEDC Office of Emergency Management, are held to help prepare EOC team members should a natural or man-made disaster affect the base. (U.S. Air Force photo) (This image was altered by obscuring badges for security purposes.)

In fall of 2019, AEDC team members from various offices take part in a tabletop exercise in the Emergency Operations Center at Arnold Air Force Base. Frequent exercises, organized and overseen by the AEDC Office of Emergency Management, are held to help prepare EOC team members should a natural or man-made disaster affect the base. (U.S. Air Force photo) (This image was altered by obscuring badges for security purposes.)

ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. -- September is National Preparedness Month, and as part of this campaign, the Arnold Engineering Development Complex Office of Emergency Management team is providing information and literature throughout Arnold Air Force Base as a reminder of how important it is to prepare for an emergency.

“Beginning in 2004, the Federal Emergency Management Agency began National Preparedness Month as its annual national outreach, sponsored by its FEMA Ready Campaign,” said James Dill, the installation emergency manager at Arnold AFB. “It is observed each September to raise awareness about the importance of preparing for disasters and emergencies that could happen at any time.”
The 2021 National Preparedness Month theme is, “Prepare to protect. Preparing for disasters is protecting everyone you love.”

According to Dill, it takes a lot of planning to ensure the people and facilities on base stay safe.
“On a daily basis, planning is what we do, he said. “Ninety-nine percent of our efforts are to ensure there is a viable and tested plan to respond, mitigate and recover from any and all situations.

“This process includes collaborating with other AEDC organizations and inspector general to exercise and validate the process. Checklists are developed and followed as a guideline in order to keep each organization on track. During the other 1 percent of the time, we are in ‘crisis mode’ and working out of the Emergency Operations Center to support the incident commander at a tactical level.”

In his job, Dill said he actually has two roles.
“I am the installation emergency manager, and chief of the Emergency Management Flight,” he said. “The EM Flight is part of the Civil Engineering Branch and is responsible for complying with all Air Force instructions, Air Force manuals, etc. to ensure the installation is ready to respond, mitigate and recover from any incident or accident, whether manmade or natural. As the installation emergency manager, my main goal is to ensure AEDC leadership is aware of any and all issues that may impact the operation and successful completion of our mission. I conduct immersion briefings with all newly assigned senior leaders on the EM program, EM policy, structure and capabilities upon their assignment to AEDC.”

He added that AEDC EM is not your “typical” EM Flight.

“Comprised of three civilians, there are certain things that we are not able to do compared to a flight that is staffed at higher levels,” Dill said. “Traditionally, an EM flight consists of active duty Air Force EM personnel and Department of the Air Force civilians, and range anywhere from 6 to 16 personnel total.

“Due to our manning, equipping and staffing levels we rely heavily on mutual aid agreements with local first responders to support our mission and fill any response limitations once our organic resources have been exhausted. We have a strong relationship with our local community which makes our job easier.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Dill mentioned EM has been affected the last year and a half just like every office on base.

“I’m not sure if our ‘protocols’ have changed for EM any more than they have changed for everyone,” he said. “COVID-19 and the telework environment brought change and challenges to everyone. In the EM world, being able to successfully accomplish activation of the Emergency Operations Center virtually was something that had to be figured out, and fast. Mr. Neil Felver and Mr. Mark Anderson worked tirelessly to establish and test that ability using Microsoft Teams. After some trial and error we were able to not only establish an amazing capability that has proven itself a game changer, but to set a benchmark for other EM programs and agencies to follow.”

Neil Felver, who is an Emergency Management specialist, has worked as part of the AEDC EM team for 14 years and stated that the team’s duties are constantly evolving.

“Emergency managers are trained professionals who are tasked with the responsibility of helping communities, installations and organizations anticipate hazards and vulnerability, and undertake measures to more effectively deal with disasters when they happen,” he said.

“As emergency managers, you quickly find out that there are so many responsibilities that having ‘defined’ roles or duties is nearly impossible, especially at a small installation like Arnold. So, you’re quickly immersed into a ‘one team, one fight’ mentality, with the goal being protecting base personnel by producing the best products as possible; whether that be Installation Emergency Management Plan or community awareness... There are a lot of things that go on behind the scenes in emergency management to ensure we’re ready for any incident that may happen here at Arnold Air Force Base.”

Felver added that in addition to the workforce being prepared for an emergency that occurs on base, they should also be ready and equipped for an emergency at home.

“Before an emergency happens, be sure to sit down with your family and decide how you will get in contact with each other, where you will go and what you will do in the event of an emergency,” he said.

Some items to put on a home safety checklist that Felver mentioned include: planning an escape route, staying in contact with family, shutting off utilities if needed, having insurance papers and other vital records on hand, reviewing safety skills, caring for any animals and assembling an emergency supply kit.

“It’s important to note that no plan or kit will be complete,” he said. “Like our base plans, they should be a living document to change and add to as you go.”

In the event that an Arnold employee witnesses or is involved in an emergency situation while at work, Felver said to immediately dial 9-1-1 and advise that the emergency is at the base.

“The first and only thing anyone should do is call 9-1-1. Because there are a lot of unknowns with every situation, it’s better to leave that to the professional fire fighters, police, and emergency responders,” he said.