50 years after a devastating earthquake destroyed parts of Alaska, many residents are practicing survival and medical techniques to prepare themselves for the next "big one", including the governor.
Governor Sean Parnell visited the Exercise Alaska Shield and Vigilant Guard at the Alaska state fairgrounds in Palmer on Friday to observe military and civilian exercises and drills in a community effort to prepare Alaskans for a major disaster. 75 Alaskans volunteered there as "wounded" residents as a whole team of makeup artists created fake injuries for responders to practice treating.
The Alaska Shield 2014 exercise is scheduled to continue through April 2, with dozens of agencies and local groups participating in various exercises that simulate similar problems faced by responders and survivors of the 1964 earthquake. A 9.2 magnitude earthquake was simulated 70 miles east of Anchorage in Jonah Bay, with recurring aftershocks that could be felt as far away as northern Canada and Washington state, and tsunami impacts along the participating coastal regions.
In Valdez, a disaster exercise simulated a communication blackout: no phones or internet connection, only radio provided by members of a local amateur radio club, whose purpose is to respond to such situations.
"We are providing amateur radio support for Alaska Shield 2014," said Robert Rountree, president of the amateur radio club. "We have an amateur radio group here in town that provides emergency communications."
Volunteers from the Alaska Red Cross provided food and shelter for a simulated 209,000 individuals and 97,000 pets in five regions of Alaska. Red Cross officials say that other activities involved fundraising, and equipment and staff provision efforts, as well as recovery drills.
Alongside civilians, Alaska-based military units provided support in medical transportation and damage assessment, training their leaders say will prove life-saving in real times of emergency. Soldiers of the 207th Brigade Support Company were responsible for transporting medical equipment and establishing a medical unit capable of providing care for even the most grievous of injuries, while Alaska National Guardsmen from the 208th Construction Management Team and the 207th Engineer Support Platoon were tasked to provide damage assessment of local infrastructures for emergency operation centers. Other Alaska guardsmen from the 103rd Civil Support Team and even guardsmen from Nebraska’s 72nd Civil Support Team assisted the AFD during a HAZMAT training exercise in Anchorage at the Alaska State Public Health Lab.