On Nov. 20, a Red Cross Disaster Services team of about 50 stood ready at the Los Angeles Region headquarters’ Emergency Operation Center to execute a large-scale response as part of a daylong functional exercise held by the city of Los Angeles’ Emergency Management Department.
This year's exercise scenario: a magnitude-7.1 earthquake that occurred above the Puente Hills Fault -- not far from downtown Los Angeles -- shook the ground for a full minute. By the end of the temblor, 300,000 people were displaced within a 25-mile radius of the quake’s epicenter.
The annual exercise, which took four months to plan and about eight hours to conduct, simultaneously activated 28 operating centers headed by city and county law enforcement, fire, paramedic and other public safety agencies and the Red Cross, all of which worked in coordination to dispatch appropriate emergency response teams and resources across the region.
Within an hour of the quake, the Red Cross’ Emergency Operations Center -- a top-line command center outfitted with radio, video and communications equipment and designated work stations ready to be activated during major disasters -- buzzed with activity.
“Players” participating in the exercise were expected to pilot new processes, positions, and responsibilities. Each “player” participant at a work station was assigned a specific duty in logistics, planning, operations or external relations. Most players were volunteers and almost all were new to their assigned role.
Soon, injects -- pieces of new information or developments -- started flowing into the operating center. Of the 850 injects that were released throughout all of the agency operating centers, Red Cross planned 30 of its own, but stood ready to react to others, which had the potential to trigger Red Cross services.
One of the other injects triggered a need for Red Cross to open additional shelters after a dam in Encino overflowed, affecting hundreds of thousands of people.
This exercise served as the first opportunity to evaluate and test newly strategized protocols outlined in the region’s drafted response plans. These new protocols were developed to address changes in the Red Cross L.A. Region response structures, including the implementation of four territories and the adoption of fundamental elements of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Incident Management System command structure.
The Los Angeles Region’s next functional exercise, held independently by the Red Cross at the West LA EOC, is anticipated for June 2015.