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9-1-16 ACS Helps Lead Innovative National Mass Care Exercise for Several U.S. States
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By Kimberly Luste Maran 

 
An evacuee role player receives medical treatment during the National Mass Care Exercise conducted in Missouri on Aug. 22-25, 2016.
Photo supplied by Jody Dickhaut

 
 

On August 22-25, Adventist Community Services (ACS) was a lead partner in the 2016 National Mass Care Exercise (NMCE) hosted by the state of Missouri. FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) Region VII and SEMA (State Emergency Management Agency), along with the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and an array of other non-government organization’s (NGO’s) conducted the fifth in a series of mass care exercises in this year's host state of Missouri. The FEMA Region VII states of Iowa and Nebraska also participated with other play in the region. Eastern Jackson County, Missouri, in the Kansas City metro area, and the city of Independence conducted the largest play event of its kind to date as part of the NMCE. More than 835 individuals volunteered for the "live play" part of the exercise in Kansas City, which included more than 125 Adventists. During the exercise, 516 evacuees (role players) were run through the system and registered and then transported to shelters.
 
This innovative exercise was based on a 7.7 magnitude earthquake scenario in the New Madrid Seismic Zone of Missouri, which would likely affect eight states — with the most severe damage in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Missouri respectively. Forecasted damage in Missouri from this catastrophic level event would include more than 4,735 fatalities, 180,000 injuries with 70,240 requiring medical aid, and 238,000 people needing to evacuate from the impact zone. The exercise is designed to illustrate how the community would respond during an earthquake.
 
W. Derrick Lea, ACS Disaster Response (DR) director for the NAD reports that during the course of this exercise in Jefferson City, Missouri, approximately 180 individuals representing different agencies and organizations simulated the resources they could bring to play in a live event, and shortfalls to be addressed later were highlighted. 

 
A woman role player gets injury makeup applied by Tyler Anderson before the mass care exercise begins in Kansas City, Mo.
Photo supplied by Jody Dickhaut

 
 

Representatives from around the country, including state and federal authorities, sent personnel to observe and capture how this exercise was conducted. Action reports will be used to create plans for others in state emergency management offices nationwide.
 
“An earthquake is predicted to affect this area in the future,” says Lea. “The magnitude of this exercise can’t be overstated; this is the largest event of its size ever planned in the United States.” He adds, “The intent is to get better at helping those experiencing crisis in an intentional way.”
 
Pastor Jody Dickhaut, ACS director for the Missouri half of the Iowa-Missouri conference, reports that the “mass care exercise live play ERC/Shelter/POD in Kansas City was a success, providing vast amounts of ‘lessons learned’ data that will help fill in the gaps and strengthen our response plan and training.” Dickhaut, who worked closely with the exercise core planning team at the state level for the past year, shares that ACSDR volunteers from the Kansas City metro area and across the state of Missouri were instrumental in providing crisis care response services as greeter-screeners and ambassadors at the evacuee reception center located at the Silverstein Eye Center Arena in Independence. 
 
With similar operations taking place all across the region, ACS had support personnel from the Iowa-Missouri, Central States, Kansas-Nebraska, and Rocky Mountain conferences. Dickhaut adds, “The Adventist church was hugely recognized for the large turnout of volunteers and role players at all of the ‘hotwash’ meetings in [Kansas City] and at the State Emergency Operations Center in Jefferson City. Our Adventist volunteers worked tirelessly in the exercise.” He says that one exciting development was the “contagious synergy” that occurred with the many local non-Adventist volunteers.
 
Lea is pleased with the outcomes. “Not only will this innovate event aid in future response, NAD ACS also benefits from all of the work and activity we’ve been involved in as we work collaboratively to share the information acquired with each of our conferences.”

 
ACS and American Red Cross volunteers work together to register evacuees during the "live play" event in Kansas City, Mo. During this mass care event, role players need assistance after a 7.7 earthquake strikes their region.
Photo supplied by Jody Dickhaut

 
 

The level of the collaborative spirit may have been best exemplified by members from LDS Charities (Latter Day Saints), reports Dickhaut. He says, “Their new Missouri state director and several of their volunteers joined in the pre-training and asked if they could wear our ACSDR shirts and work alongside of us in the operation.”
 
Adventist Duane Hallock, regional communications director for the American Red Cross of Western Missouri, expresses pride in the church’s efforts. He says, “I always show up on the scene of a disaster and look for ‘my people’ — those wearing red vests. When I showed up for this exercise, I noticed that wherever I looked I also saw a large number of people in golden yellow shirts. I was filled with pride knowing that these were also ‘my people’ — volunteers with the Adventist Community Services Disaster Response."
 
Hallock was thrilled to see Red Cross ham radio operators practicing their emergency communications skills surrounded by ACS volunteers. He says, “As I looked down on the arena floor, I noticed how both groups (ACS and ARC volunteers) were co-mingling. Again, I was overcome with pride as I saw all of ‘my people’ working together seamlessly to serve the humanitarian needs of our hurting world.”
 
The collaborative component of the exercise was key for Dickhaut. “The entire senior class came over from Sunnydale Adventist Academy [located in Centralia, Missouri], and we had Tyler Anderson, one of the faculty from the International Rescue and Relief Program (IRR), from Union College [in Nebraska] onsite doing Moulage (mock injury make up), which was impressive. This was a great hit with many of the volunteers,” he says.
 
In an email after the exercise, Dickhaut thanked and praised the Adventist participants, saying, “You all exceeded all expectations — God is Good!”
 
He added: “Remember this is just the beginning, there is more to come.”
 
— NAD ACS and the Iowa-Missouri ACS contributed to this report.
 
 

North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists
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