Marines prepare for danger
April 18, 2006 6:02 am


The hope is that Stafford and Prince William counties are never attacked by terrorists or devastated by a hurricane or some other natural disaster.

But hopes don't always keep danger away, so area emergency agencies and the Marine Corps got together recently to practice emergency response tactics.

Quantico spokesmen say protection exercises held last month went well.

"I am confident that in the event of an emergency our response procedures will keep us safe," said Col. Pete Streng.

Up to 2,000 people from Marine Corps Base and the counties of Stafford and Prince William conducted an exercise to evaluate the base's ability to respond to a variety of crises.

Such exercises have been conducted at the base for years, dating back before the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.

But this year changes made the event more successful, Streng said.

For one thing a seminar helped area agencies learn more about each other.

"That's important because there's a lot of turnover," Streng said.

Another addition this year was a tabletop simulation.

"It was a war-gaming kind of thing," Streng said. "We said, 'OK if such and such situation happens what do we do now?'"

Then, as in previous years, there were the ground exercises, on and off the base.

Participants responded to mock calamities including an explosive-filled vehicle ready to detonate. Then there was an explosion in which toxic clouds filled the air.

Streng said one of the important components of the event was to fine-tune the emergency command center, and the communications between the various entities that would be involved if something were to happen.

"We do this every year because we have to to make sure we're prepared for any kind of disaster," he said.

However, he said it might be a plus to make the event a quarterly exercise. When something like this is done annually, they have to pack a lot of information in, he added.

"Maybe it would be better off having it quarterly," he said, "but it could be on a smaller basis."

This idea is something Streng, who was the operations officer for the exercise, will have to consider. It takes a lot of work to pull off the event.

"It took months of planning and preparation," he said.

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