Preparing for the worst-case scenario

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Smallboat crews bring in victim actors participating in Detroit River Readiness 2011 to Milliken State Park to be triaged and treated by awaiting emergency medical crews Aug. 23, 2011. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Kyle N. Niemi.
Smallboat crews bring in victim actors participating in Detroit River Readiness 2011 to Milliken State Park to be triaged and treated by awaiting emergency medical crews Aug. 23, 2011. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Kyle N. Niemi.

With this week’s 5.9-magnitude earthquake felt along the U.S. East Coast and Hurricane Irene inching on a path towards the eastern seaboard, preparedness is at the forefront of many American’s minds. Preparedness plays an important role in the Coast Guard, and the service routinely participates in readiness drills and exercises with federal, state and local partners nationwide. It was this sense of preparation that led more than 65 agencies to participate in Detroit River Readiness 2011.

Click on the above photo of the passenger vessel Detroit Princess to see a video of Detroit River Readiness 2011. U.S. Coast Guard photo and video by Chief Petty Officer Kyle N. Niemi.
Click on the above photo of the passenger vessel Detroit Princess to see a video of Detroit River Readiness 2011. U.S. Coast Guard photo and video by Chief Petty Officer Kyle N. Niemi.

The Detroit River Readiness exercise was designed to challenge participants to make difficult decisions, carry out essential functions and maintain a common operating picture during an incident of international significance.

While the exercise served many purposes, the main areas of focus included maritime search and rescue capabilities, mass rescue operations, mass casualty capabilities, survivor accountability and public information outreach.

The participating agencies came from a broad spectrum of backgrounds and included U. S. and Canadian federal, state and local emergency responders.

Not only did the exercise involve dozens of partner agencies but it also extended across borders. This is particularly important in the Great Lakes region, where cross-border events occur on a daily basis.

Signs, like this one at Milliken State Park, notify Detroit citizens and visitors of the full-scale exercise. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Kyle N. Niemi.
Signs, like this one at Milliken State Park, notify Detroit citizens and visitors of the full-scale exercise. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Kyle N. Niemi.

“This extensive full-scale exercise was the largest ever conducted along the shared U. S. and Canadian border,” stated Capt. Jeff Ogden, commander of Coast Guard Sector Detroit. “We were able to be successful due to the close working relationships between our international, federal, state, local and industry partners. We clearly recognize that this unique port, which shares jurisdiction with Canada over an international commercial waterway, is critical to the economic well-being and security of the Great Lakes.”

Another part of the exercise’s success was due to the real-life procedures that were required in the full-scale exercise. The exercise started out with an actual controlled explosion aboard the passenger vessel Detroit Princess, anchored in the Detroit River. Responders then worked with local volunteers who acted the part of survivors. There was no simulation for the responders, and everything from evacuating the ship to triaging victims was done in real-time.

Responders will take their experience from this week’s exercise and implement lessons learned to assure the surrounding community, and the nation, they are ready to respond to all threats and all hazards that may arise.

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