CAMP ZAMA, Japan (March 18, 2015) – The 4th annual earthquake functional exercise was conducted March 12 by U.S. Army Garrison Japan’s Directorate of Emergency Services. The exercise was held in the Emergency Operations Center on the Camp Zama installation.
Ransom Bush, emergency manager for USAG Japan, said every quarter the USAG Japan emergency management program (team members) pick an exercise to test the capabilities of the garrison’s standards of procedures and how the directorates and first responders would react.
Members of each directorate and USAG Japan first responders rehearsed their duties during the table top simulated 9.0 magnitude earthquake drill.
Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Boudreau, operation sergeant, assigned to USAG Japan, explained that the earthquake functional exercise is “a preparedness drill” to get the garrison ready to react in the emergency situations involving earthquakes in Japan.
“The purpose of this exercise in particular was recovery operations following an earthquake,” added Boudreau.
Bush said the main participants for this exercise were liaisons from the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force 4th Engineer Group, representatives from the American Red Cross and from the U.S. Army Medical Department Activities-Japan, and participants from all of the directorates of USAG Japan.
Boudreau said that in the event of actual emergency, the EOC would be activated and the crisis management team and representatives from the directorates and emergency services would respond to the emergency events.
Boudreau explained that his role in the exercise as an EOC manager allowed him to receive information from the Incident Command Post on the ground; whether the information is from the fire department or law enforcement that are responding to emergency calls.
“I take the information, track it and gets it to the directors and other subject matter experts that can coordinate the resources necessary to response to those situations,” said Boudreau.
For the first time, a Joint Information Center was set up in the Camp Zama Army Community Service building by the U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public Affairs Office and a Mass Care Facility, set up at Yano Fitness Center by the Camp Zama Directorate of Family Moral, Welfare and Recreations.
Katsutaka Nagatomi, media relations officer for USAG Japan PAO, said one duty of PAO is to escort all external media personnel to the JIC. Nagatomi said media relation officers at the JIC can wait for updated information from EOC, translate it to Japanese, and release the information to the media and to the public in English and Japanese through the garrison’s official Facebook and through media press releases.
Nagatomi said situations may arise during an actual incident such as the lack of telephone or internet capabilities.
“By having training, we can familiarize ourselves with the emergency procedures, and realize what we need to improve on,” stated Nagatomi.
Paul Butler, station manager for the Camp Zama American Red Cross, aided in the set up of the Mass Care Facility at Yano Fitness Center. Butler said a “Safe and Well” registration website is one of the services the American Red Cross maintains.
When there is a major earthquake, and the Japanese government shuts down cell phone networks, the Safe and Well website can assist in communicating with family members, said Butler.
“By registering yourself on the Safe and Well website, family members (in Japan) can let family back in the U.S. know that everybody is ok,” said Butler.
The American Red Cross has a Japanese language version of the Safe and Well brochure also available so that all the Japanese dependents can actually have “the same access and the same information,” added Butler.
Bush said he has notice progression through the years by conducting such exercises.
“We increased our knowledge, our communications, our cross-walk with each directorate, and I feel the exercise today was great success,” Ransome continued.
Boudreau said the functional exercises are important because there are a lot of Soldiers and Families that depend on the crisis management team’s ability to provide support and recovery operations in the event of an emergency situation such as an earthquake; which is fairly common in Japan.
“It is a big learning experience,” continued Boudreau.
Nagatomi, who experienced the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, said it is very significant to have training around this time of the year; as a reminder and “not to fade the memory of the incident,” concluded Nagatomi.