By MAUREEN ROSE
Gold Standard Acting Editor
The recent shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, are enough to make anyone stop and think: What would we do if that happened here?
Actually, many members of the Fort Knox team ask themselves that precise question on a near-daily basis. They ask the questions, they plan drills, they test responses and procedures.
The garrison team includes the first responders at the fire and police departments, as well as planners at the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security. Other partner commands have their own planners who help ensure their unique situations are part of the equation.
The team plans a wide variety of exercises to test various emergency scenarios and they do it often.
According to Jim Moody, the post anti-terrorism/force protection officer, “We are well rehearsed.”
The most recent large scale exercise was March 19 with an active shooter drill at the U.S. Army Recruiting Command. Marvin Gunderson, the Fort Knox fire chief, said more than 60 garrison responders, plus the Directorate of Emergency Services incident command staff, participated in that exercise, which included transporting “patients” via medevac helicopters.
While that drill is over, it doesn’t mean the players are taking a break.
“Just because you don’t see what’s going on doesn’t mean we’re not rehearsing,” said Ron Jenkins, the installation emergency manager out of the Installation Operations Center. “There is daily training going on behind the scenes as we evaluate lessons learned.”
“Firefighters train daily on the skills and knowledge needed for emergency response,” the chief said. On almost a monthly basis, the DES teams train for tornados, hazardous materials incidents, train derailments and other situations that would require a total emergency response.
The police department also trains on a regular basis, from the daily patrol briefings and individual tasks to the quarterly drills with role players and evaluators and the annual active shooter exercises.
“DES works closely with anti-terrorism/force protection officers at the major commands on post,” Lt. Col. Brian Sankey, the post provost marshal said. “We also conduct annual mass casualty exercises with airfield personnel.”
Should an incident occur, Jenkins said the first thing people might see will be just the basic safety information. Usually the first step, at least in the case of an active shooter, would be locking down the installation so no additional personnel enter or exit the post.
The reason for a lockdown, Jenkins explained, is to keep people safe and to keep the roads clear for emergency personnel.
“We may not be able to tell you more than “shelter in place,” stay away from windows and stay tuned,” Jenkins said. “But we’ll tell you as much as we can to keep you safe and we’ll tell you just as quickly as we can.”
The second step is usually mass notification which happens in a number of ways: the installation uses “giant voice” which is essentially a network of public announcement speakers so that Soldiers training outdoors can be alerted. In addition, the internal mass notification speakers will be used, office workers should see a desktop alert or mass emails and telephone alerts go out to those customers who have signed up for them. Later, radio, television and social media will be used to post information.
However, social media is a communication tool that the leadership asks the Knox community not to use in the initial phase of an incident.
“We don’t want to pass misinformation, because wrong information is worse than nothing,” Jenkins said.
Rumors rage as the result of wrong information and in some cases, even good information can interfere with efforts to apprehend offenders and be harmful to first responders.
One of the priorities of the Antiterrorism Working Group is to educate the public through a forum of organizational Antiterrorism Officers and working group participants. It’s impossible to eliminate every threat, but there are things people can do to help.
“Supervisors should know their people well enough to know when something is wrong or bothering them,” said Ken Boeglen, DPTMS director. “You can’t direct someone to help if you don’t know when they need the help.”
An educated workforce, Moody added, from co-workers to supervisors, should know the baseline for behavior of the people they work with and they’ll know the high risk indicators. That doesn’t mean a person should call the FBI if they see one high risk behavior, but when there is a combination of factors and the behavior is out of character, safety should be the concern. Conflict resolution should follow to de-escalate things before violence occurs.
That all dovetails with the Army’s campaign asking people if they “see something, say something.” Boeglen said that motto should remind everyone of the responsibility to take the initiative to speak up whenever something seems “suspicious.”
“It’s not necessary to understand exactly what’s wrong,” he said. “Just trust your awareness ‘radar’ enough to report anything questionable and it can be further investigated by the professionals.”
Not only does the Fort Knox community benefit from its level of readiness, but the surrounding communities also benefit. In the past, Fort Knox has supported its neighbors in many ways: in the train derailment near West Point last year—a few Fort Knox fire-fighters were present in their volunteer firefighter capacity and some mutual aid assistance was provided with hazmat expertise; firefighters from surrounding communities train with Fort Knox personnel in the airfield fire scenarios since it requires assets they don’t have; DES personnel often respond to motor vehicle accidents on the nearby highways off post.
“We are constantly striving to make this a safer place for the public and workforce,” Jenkins said. “But we can’t do it alone; we need the public’s help in this process.”
High risk behaviors
Indicators of potentially violent behavior may include one or more of the following:
* Increased use of alcohol or drugs
* Unexplained increase in absenteeism or vague physical complaints
* Depression or withdrawal
* Increased severe mood swings and noticeably unstable or emotional responses
* Increasing talks about personal problems
* Increase in unsolicited comments about violence, firearms and other weapons or violent crimes