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Wright-Patterson AFB plans for week of disaster exercises

Employees of the National Air and Space Intelligence Center exit the building with their hands up as medical personnel with the 88th Civil Engineer Squadron fire department get a count and monitor for wounded to aid those in need during an active-shooter exercise at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, on Aug. 2, 2017.

WESLEY FARNSWORTH/U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO

By KARA DRISCOLL | Dayton (Ohio) Daily News | Published: February 2, 2019

DAYTON, Ohio (Tribune News Service) — Just months after a botched exercise on base led to the false report of an active shooter, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base will conduct its first quarterly training exercises next week.

The base will conduct the exercises from Monday to Friday. Included in the week’s events is a natural disaster exercise, with severe weather response and sheltering.

During this portion of the exercise, as well as other times throughout the week, alert sirens could be sounded and might be audible in areas adjacent to the base. Residents in the surrounding communities are reminded that those alarms are only a part of the exercise, unless informed otherwise by base officials.

During the exercise, loudspeaker announcements might be heard. Gate traffic could be backed up or rerouted, and some roadways could be blocked temporarily. Travel also might be congested, according to base officials.

Emergency response vehicles will be seen and heard around the base and security measures could be increased. Installation Inspection Team members, easily identifiable by the bright-yellow reflective vests that each wears, will evaluate the response to the exercise events throughout the week, according to the base.

On Aug. 3 — the same day an active-shooter training session was taking place at Wright-Patterson — a 911 call reported an active shooter at the base’s medical center in Area A. About 50 police officers and military personnel responded to the false alarm.

A report by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations — requested by the base’s commander and released in late December — detailed how law enforcement’s uncoordinated response to the call could have resulted in “serious injury and property damage.”

The report described an unruly scene that unfolded during which a military servicemember discharged multiple rounds of ammunition from an assault rifle.

“A thorough understanding between federal, state and local agencies about command and control to include understanding jurisdiction and response procedures needs to be established,” the report found.

The report also indicated that all base exercises were not communicated clearly to employees.

“While realism is important in training exercises, all personnel must be always be fully aware of exercise vs. real-world situations. Coordinating with all concerned organizations and then sticking with the agreed-upon plan is essential to keeping everyone fully aware,” the report found.

Greene County Sheriff Gene Fischer told the Dayton Daily News on Friday that base officials communicated to his office about next week’s base exercises. Fischer shared the information with upper-level law enforcement so they knew what to expect with the activity.

“They sent an email to us letting us know they were having it, and they would not be calling for assistance,” he said.

Fischer said the base is an important community partner that they will work with at any time. Beavercreek Police Capt. Chad Lindsey said the base also notified them through email on Tuesday, and he said it was helpful to communicate with his staff. He said the police do not have to modify any protocol due to the base exercises.

A base spokeswoman said Wright-Patterson communicated next week’s excercise through its normal channels, including its newspaper and basewide email. First responders communicated with community counterparts. Leadership across the base was briefed to ensure they were aware of the exercise scenarios, and they approved of the objectives and risk analysis associated with the scenarios, the spokeswoman said.

An active-shooter exercise will not occur next week.

Patrick Oliver, a former police chief in Fairborn who currently is an associate professor of criminal justice at Cedarville University, said that when the base is doing active-shooter exercises, officials should notify every law enforcement agency as well as every hospital and emergency-response agency in the region.

“Everybody should be aware of what’s happening,” he told the Dayton Daily News.

©2019 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)
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