Kentucky puts new emergency operations center to test

Story by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

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Mark Klaas, Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program Manager for the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management directs personnel on the floor of the Emergency Operation Center in Frankfort, Ky., Sept. 18, 2013. KYEM participated in an annual exercise with a variety of state agencies in a simulated chemical explosion at the Bluegrass Army Depot in Richmond, Ky. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky Division of Emergency Management (KYEM) is in the final stages of completing the new Commonwealth Emergency Operations Center (CEOC) at Boone National Guard Center in Frankfort, Ky.  As one of the final tests of the new building, a variety of agencies from across the Commonwealth also assessed their skills with a large-scale exercise, Sept. 18, 2013.

Utilizing emergency managers from each region of the state, the agency simulated an accident involving chemical agents at the Bluegrass Army Depot in Richmond, Ky. The Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program (CSEPP) exercise is an annual event for the CEOC and demonstrates one of the many potential natural and man-made disasters that KYEM trains for.

“The annual CSEPP exercise provides the Commonwealth the opportunity to test our response capabilities in the unlikely accident of a chemical release from the Bluegrass Army Depot,” said Mark Klaas, program manager for the exercise and CEOC operations manger during activations.

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Representatives from various Kentucky agencies collaborate during the Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program exercise in Frankfort, Ky., Sept. 18, 2013. More than 2000 personnel took part in the annual exercise state-wide. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

“This year’s exercise allowed us to test the new systems and procedures with our cabinet and private sector partners in the new Commonwealth Emergency Operations Center,” he said. “We are very proud to have this new state of the art facility in which we can assist the Commonwealth in times of emergencies.”

More than 80 personnel from different agencies operated in the CEOC during the exercise and nearly 2000 were working their end in regional offices around the state. Representatives from other agencies such as the Red Cross, Department of Transportation, Public Health, Homeland Security, Kentucky Community Crisis Response Board, Kentucky Board of Emergency Medical Services and the Kentucky National Guard, all participated in the scenario.

Evaluators from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) observed each step of the event to present a synopsis of how the exercise went.

“I am glad they took it all seriously,” said Charles Williams, an evaluator from Alabama’s Emergency Management. “The teamwork was great and the effort was certainly there.”

The new building received rave reviews in its state-of-the-art design and technologies. But as with anything brand new, there were a few bugs that presented themselves to be improved as KYEM gets used to its new home.

“My my observation, there were so many more good things that went right as opposed to what didn’t,” said Lt. Col. John Cline, commander of the Kentucky Guard’s 41st Civil Support Team.

“If they are using this exercise as a validation for the new building, I would say that it was certainly successful,” said Cline.

For more information on KYEM and CSEPP can be found at http://www.kyem.ky.gov.

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